Facebook has become one of the biggest influences on the lives of girls (despite recent concerns about online Privacy and security), according to a survey of eight to 15-year-olds for National Family Week which found that 40% of girls identified Facebook as one of the most important things in their lives – compared with 6% of boys.
The survey, carried out last month was commissioned by National Family Week – an event supported by charities including the NSPCC and the Women’s Institute – which encourages families to spend more time together. The survey was based on 3,000 parents and 1,000 children across the UK, looked at the perceptions of children and parents of family life.
66% of parents believed that they were the main influence on their children, compared to 49 per cent of children who’s perception was that their parents had the most impact on their lives.
Girls saw websites such as Facebook as much more influential than television, magazines, celebrities and even their own siblings. The most popular choices for the three most important things in girls lives were friends, family and then Facebook and MSN. 73% of boys chose family as the most important thing in their lives, compared with 53% of girls, boys identified money and friends as their next most important things. Social networking was seen as a lower priority for boys – only 6% selecting it in their top three things in their lives, compared with 40% of girls.
Girls were more likely to believe that technology – in the form of social networking and mobile phones – has a major influence on their lives, 41% of girls think technology and only 17% of boys.
Girls see their big influences as parents, teachers and technology – while boys identify parents, friends and school. The survey also claims that parents have failed to keep up with their children’s use of technology and age limits (such as Facebooksterms of service stating that users must be 13 or over).
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Ultimately this survey recognised that to most children (and indeed many adults) Facebook and other online social networking sites mean friendship. These sites are now one of the key ways in which young people chat, stay in touch and up-to-date and communicate with their peers. Rather than playing outside in the “dangerous real world” they seek companionship online and play in online worlds. The issue is that children often don’t understand the online dangers as it’s a world that few adults have grown up in or understand.
Children often perceive Social Networking, online gaming and chat sites as areas of safety – they are in their own homes, often in their bedrooms or at friends houses, how can anything bad happen there?!
Of course they are not “safe”, dangers occur online but risks can occur anywhere despite putting safety measures in place. Pedestrian crossingsalone don’t prevent accidents, they just reduce the risk, they must be combined with teaching children to cross the road safely aswe don’t just rely on one method to keep them safe. Much like in the real world we can’t eliminate all of the risks that children face, what we can do is educate them how to cope with these dangers; to be resilient and learn how to keep themselves safe in the first place.
Peer or friendship education should be seen as essential part of this process, children are keen to learn and often be influenced by their peers (either for bad or for good).
One of the most successful projects I am currently running is a project with Leading Teachers and the Kent Advisory Service for Primary schools where local partnerships of schools work together to embed and understand e-Safety. These events have not only been attended by schools, but also Local Children’s Centres and Kent Police etc.The project begins with a Staff Development day to ensure all staff develop a good level of e-Safety awareness and enables them to formulate an e-Safety action plan for their school. Some partnerships have additionally offered parent sessions and staff twilight training.
The next event is a training day for pupils (often year 5 and 6 but has also worked with years 2,3 and 4) which focuses on using a peer led approach. This involves training the pupils to become e-Safety ambassadors, who can then go back into their schools to deliver the e-safety message to other children as well as staff and parents. The children are then invited to come back and share their ideas and resources with the other schools for a celebration event.
The feedback for these has been overwhelming positive both from the children and the staff involved as it gives the children a feeling of ownership over the issue and motivates them to help keep other children safe. If any schools, partnerships or other authorities are interested in this partnership approach then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org