YOUNGSTERS should not be allowed to gorge' on social media, the Children's Commissioner for England said yesterday.
Anne Longfield urged parents to take the issue as seriously as they would junk food. Her warning came at the launch of Digital 5 a Day, a campaign to help families regulate internet use.
Longfield said the internet and social media could be positive for youngsters, but added: Many children are using them like sweets or junk food.
Parents wouldn't let their kids eat a double cheeseburger and fries every day, so they shouldn't let them spend time online in an unhealthy way. They have a responsibility as the providers of the smart phones, computers and iPads their children use, to step in now and make sure their children's online lives are healthy.' Internet use is at record highs among children and overtook television as their top media pastime last year. Children aged five to 15 are spending 15 hours a week online, according to the watchdog Ofcom.
Longfield told the Observer: When phones, social media and games make us worried, stressed and out of control, it means we haven't got the balance right.
With your diet, you know that, because you don't feel that good. It's the same with social media.'
She said children needed to be helped to understand that sites encourage them to click on another game or video based on what they just played.
Longfield she was pressuring Facebook to make it easier for children to switch off certain features. I want Facebook and all other social media companies to be as proactive as they can about creating a good place and a safe place for kids to be', she said. There is so much more they could do. These are clever, clever people, and there are some very good examples of them using their expertise, for example by spotting people who have suicide tendencies. But they are not doing enough.'
The campaign does not recommend an absolute time limit on how long children should be online.
Instead parents are advised to help children to use their internet time to learn skills and interact positively with friends.
The campaign suggests recording how much time is spent online. In a post Longfield wrote: We hear that children often feel pressured by the constantly connected nature of the internet.
It can be difficult for them to put their phones down when apps are encouraging them to engage.'
© Daily Mail