*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on EurekAlert!
A new study published in Computers in Human Behavior found that using Instagram or Snapchat before age 11 was significantly related to more problematic digital behaviors compared to those who joined these platforms when they were older. Parental restrictions on phone use and checking social media ameliorated some of the negative effects.
“Social media sites all require a minimum age of 13 to register, but the reality is that many users are younger than that: one-third of our sample had already started using social media at age 11 or 12 and another one-third had begun at age 10 or younger,” said the study’s lead author Linda Charmaraman, Ph.D., director of the Youth, Media and Wellbeing Research Lab at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW). “This study helps us understand the risks and benefits for kids and tweens so that parents and policymakers can make decisions that prioritize their wellbeing.”
Charmaraman and her co-authors surveyed 773 middle schoolers in the Northeast U.S. about their social media initiation, digital behaviors, and parental restrictions on digital use. The researchers found that joining social media platforms like Instagram or Snapchat before age 11 was significantly associated with having online friends or joining social media sites parents would disapprove of, more problematic digital technology behaviors, more unsympathetic online behaviors, and greater likelihood of online harassment and sexual harassment victimization. Some of these effects were lessened when parents restricted phone use and limited how often their kids checked social media.