How vulnerable are children to the use of social media technologies?

Published: 2023/07/06 Number of words: 1191


Being identified as vulnerable, children and young people are often subject to abuse through the different mediums of social media. McLaughlin (2015) states that it is important to place more emphasis on how the internet and social media affects children. The Children and Young People Unit (2001: 2) state:

The Government wants children and young people to have more opportunities to get involved in the design and evaluation of policies and services that affect them or which they use.’

While policy making is extremely important, there are other individuals who are tasked with the role of looking after children and young people, including parents, guardians, extended family, schools, etc. The role of the parent is to, first and foremost, be the gatekeeper of information. They are the ones who can identify risk to their child, and they must be the ones who take responsibility for the content which their child views online. Implications must also be placed on the concept of screen time and the use of devices as digital babysitters.

Internet Access

The internet and technological advances have changed how we access information, how we interact and learn, and how we socialise and network. While there are certain benefits of internet and social media usage to children and young people, there are also a lot of risks including cyberbullying, grooming, trolling, etc., and it is important that these issues can be addressed by parents for their children. There is legislation which presents a clear message about the internet and usage; however, this cannot always be policed, and some would identify that their freedoms were being impinged upon. Using the internet allows the individual to access content, services, people, e-learning, networks, and resources. Communication as well as collaborative technologies are available to all. The monitoring of children should be the priority of parents so as they can be sure that their child is safe online. According to James & James (2004: 218)

‘the Internet, one of the few remaining areas where children are not yet regulated and controlled, is fast becoming an arena within which children are being deemed ‘at risk’ and therefore in need of protection.’

The best thing a parent can do for their child is to restrict any access to content that is not suitable for their age and to keep a check on their internet history.

Education and the Internet

The internet has grown in importance which gives schools the opportunity to make use of the technology for learning. Schools have also become aware of the dangers associated with children accessing the internet and have become more vigilant in the awareness of the risk to children and young people. OFSTED (2014: 6) states:

‘Technology offers unimaginable opportunities and is constantly evolving. Access is currently becoming universal and increasingly more mobile, and pupils are using technology at an earlier age.’

Society has changed substantially and OFSTED (2014) with electronic media, the internet and mobile devices allowing access to information, communication, culture and entertainment to children and young people which was not available 20 years ago. OFSTED (2014) identifies that while there are benefits there are also hazards which have made abusive images of children easier to create and distribute, giving abusers new opportunities to access and contact children. The technology has not created more crime, rather it has enhanced the potential of old and familiar crimes through exploitation and sexual abuse of children. Popovac & Leoschut (2012) identify that the internet is often unmonitored and uncensored thus children can be exposed to a host of risk such as pornography, violence, and harmful and disturbing images. Fresh forms of victimisation, intimidation and aggression are almost acceptable practice on the internet with no way to control content. Cyberbullying has become a new culture on the internet, and it is necessary to identify the risks which children can be exposed to.

Legislation and Regulation

Popovac & Leoschut (2012) and Katz (2016) identify that there is a lack of awareness of the dangers found online and that adults must understand how children use the internet and the creation of anxiety which can lead to mythmaking, sensationalism and especially inappropriate responses to policy making. As contemporary society is centred on the visual methods of communication and media, it can be identified that the new technologies have cause a moral panic. While Pascoe (2011) suggests that the internet has always created concerns in terms of the access to children and young people, that there is a need for this to be regulated and legislated for. However, the internet is far too big to police even with the far-reaching implications for the production and circulation of information which should ultimately be dealt with by the policy makers. Social media can be extremely dangerous due to the medium allowing individuals to stay hidden. It is here that there are concerns over the reality of cyberbullying, exploitation, and sexual abuse. The internet shields the predator allowing them access to the vulnerable. Children can unwittingly interact with a predator while believing that they are connecting with a child their own age. Knowing that there is no effective way to control this, parents need to be more vigilant and check what their children are accessing.


Keeping children safe should be the priority of every parent and identifying what is safe and what is risky online to their children must be a key learning point. Castells (2001) does suggest that using the internet for social interaction has been successful as individuals can communicate from the safety of their own home (Porter, 2008; Wankel, 2010; White et al, 2011). Social media and the internet can be identified as being beneficial to society for information and communicative processes, it should be acknowledged that there is also a dark side which involves child sexual abuse and exploitation ad cyberbullying which have all had consequences in reality. There has been an increase of awareness in the dangers of the internet and social media and attempts have been made to safeguard children and young people. Parents and guardians are also aware of the threat of negative online activity, and they should do more to protect their children.


Castells, M., (2001) The Internet Galaxy: Reflections on the Internet, Business and Society, Oxford University Press

Children and Young People’s Unit (2001) Learning to Listen: Core Principles for the Involvement of Children and Young People, CYPU

James, A., & James, A., (2004) Constructing Childhood: Theory, Policy and Social Practice, Palgrave Macmillan

Katz, A., (2016) Making Your Secondary School E-Safe: Whole School Cyberbullying and E-Safety Strategies for Meeting Ofsted Requirements, Jessica Kingsley Publishers

McLaughlin, H., (2015) Involving Children and Young People in Policy, Practice and Research, NCB

OFSTED (2014) Inspecting eSafety in Schools, OFSTED

Pascoe, C.J., (2011) Resource and Risk: Youth Sexuality and New Media Use, Sexuality Research and Social Policy, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp. 37 – 50

Popovac, M., & Leoschut, L., (2012) Cyber Bullying in South Africa: Impact and Reponses, Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention

Wankel, C., (2010) Cutting Edge Social Media Approaches to Business Education, Information Age Publishing Inc

White, B., King, I., & Tsang, P., (2011) Social Media Tools and Platforms in Learning Environments, Springer-Verlag

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