Nearly half of all girls aged 12 are on Instagram, up from 31 percent in 2017. Picture: Reuters

London - Nine in ten 12-year-olds regularly use accounts on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter - despite the legal age limit of 13, research shows.

Nearly half of all girls aged 12 are on Instagram, up from 31 percent in 2017.

When it comes to boys, Facebook is the most popular social media platform, with 43 percent of 12-year-olds using accounts. Messaging service WhatsApp recently announced it is raising its age limit from 13 to 16 - but nearly half of ten to 12-year-olds say they are already using it.

The research, by market intelligence firm Kids Insights, shows access to technology among primary school children is at an all time high - three quarters of four to six-year-olds now own a tablet. It found that, on average, children are bought a mobile phone at the age of 11.

The study of more than 5 000 children also showed one in ten use voice-controlled technology, such as Amazon Alexa, to listen to music or news.

Nick Richardson, of Kids Insights, said: "Children own more devices than ever before from a young age, as well as using social media, chat sites and apps from an earlier age."