Primary school pupils finding way round filters that are suppose to stop under-13s using them.
- Children under 13 are getting around age restrictions on social media
- Among 14 to 16-year-olds, usage of social networks has risen to 92 per cent
- One in ten aged 8-14 who read messages or texts fail to reach reading levels
More than half of primary school pupils aged seven to 11 have profiles on social networking sites – despite rules meant to stop them.
A study of nearly 30,000 children found that 56 per cent of under-11s use sites such as Facebook and Bebo – up from less than half two years ago.
The report said that young people ‘were clearly finding their way around restrictions’ which supposedly prevent those younger than 13 having a profile.
The findings will concern campaigners who have warned that accounts on sites such as Facebook can expose youngsters to online grooming and expose them to unsuitable links including pornography and gambling.
The study – by the National Literacy Trust – also found that pupils who use social networking sites regularly are more likely to struggle with reading at school.
Youngsters who prefer ‘traditional’ reading material outside class such as fiction and non-fiction books and poems are more likely to be high-achievers in reading.
The research, the latest in a series of annual surveys of eight to 16-year-olds by the NLT, found that rising numbers of children say they read outside school and enjoy doing so.
They were allowed to count text messages, emails, social networking sites, blogs and song lyrics as reading material, as well as books, newspapers and magazines.
Reading across most formats, including books and ebooks, increased slightly on last year, the study found.
But it also found that one in five of those polled admitted they rarely or never read outside class.
A similar proportion confessed they would be embarrassed if their friends saw them reading.
There was a ‘particular problem’ with teenage boys, the study said, who were less likely than girls and younger boys to read often and enjoy the activity.
The study also revealed the dramatic impact of technology on children’s reading habits.
Primary pupils are circumventing rules designed to ban under-13s from using sites such as Facebook and Bebo and registering their own profiles.
Some 56 per cent have their own profile and 33 per cent read messages on social networking sites at least monthly, while 56 per cent check text messages at least once a month.
Slightly fewer primary pupils report having their own social networking profile than in 2013 but the figure is significantly up on the 2012 report, when 45.2 per cent had profiles.
Among 14 to 16-year-olds, usage of social networking sites has risen to 92 per cent.
‘Facebook and Bebo do not permit young people under 13 to register,’ this year’s report said.
‘However young people are clearly finding ways around these restrictions and there are a number of social networking sites that now target the younger market, which may explain the high number of “key stage two” pupils who say that they have a social networking site profile.’