‘It’s like dumping your kids in the Cross at 2am’
AGE restrictions on social media sites such as Facebook and Snapchat have been proven farcical by new data revealing nearly 50 per cent of "pre-teens" are addicted to them.
Children as young as four have been caught trying to access the sites. One expert likens the situation to dumping your kids "at two o'clock in the morning in Kings Cross and driving off".
Data on the internet use of more than 3000 students compiled by Family Zone Cyber Safety has revealed 48 per cent of kids aged 9-12 access social media despite the 13-plus age restrictions.
The numbers are so concerning, the eSafety Commissioner and cyber-safety and child health experts say parents and social media giants need to stop posturing and start to enforce age bans.
Of kids aged eight and under, Family Zone found 38 per cent tried to access, or successfully accessed, Facebook, while 20 per cent did the same with Snapchat.
Both sites stipulate users must be 13 or older.
These figures climbed in kids aged 9-12 with 48 per cent trying to use or using Facebook, 34 per cent on Snapchat and 32 per cent on Instagram.
Child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg said letting underage kids use social media was the "psychological equivalent of taking your eight-year-old and dumping them at two o'clock in the morning in Kings Cross and driving off".
"I find it incredible that social media companies don't do more to check the ages of these kids," Dr Carr-Gregg said.
The eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant conceded there were technical challenges posed by age-verification processes - but they could not be put in the too-hard basket.
"The market and technologies are maturing, and we encourage more of the market leaders to step up to deliver more robust identity management solutions, in the interest of protecting children from harmful online content," she said.
Parenting expert Dr Justin Coulson said he was concerned most parents didn't understand the psychological implications of allowing kids on social media.
"Most concerning is the neurological rewiring of the brain that can lead to compulsive and problematic internet use," he said.
Sydney student Jivi Govender, 15, said she wasn't ready to start using social media when she turned 13.
"I didn't have the right mindset in knowing this was a device that can really improve your life or really destroy you," she said.
PARENTS, DO YOU KNOW THESE SITES?
A gaming app designed to help players talk to each other in real time. It's the only cross-platform voice and text chat app designed specifically for gamers.
A secret messaging app that lets users receive feedback from friends and strangers. Sarahah means "frankness" or "honesty" in Arabic, however it's popularity has been met with mixed responses.
A live streaming video platform popular for watching and streaming digital video broadcasts.
A creative platform that lets users make short videos that are set to music and shared with friends.
A question-and-answer site whereby users create profiles and send each other questions. The simple format is popular among teens and tweens.
A funny online platform where people like and share "user generated content" such as memes, videos and GIFs.
A trendy instant messaging app that can is popular among teens as a simple alternative to chatting on any other social network.
An online image sharing community that draws people for inspiring images, visual stories and funny memes.