New Poll Reveals How Young Children Are Using Social Media and Messaging Apps

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Dec. 5, 2017)—National PTA released today the results of a national poll exploring the use of social media and messaging apps among young children. The poll, which surveyed 1,200 parents of children under the age of 13, was conducted in collaboration with Facebook earlier this year through Lincoln Park Strategies. The findings show that the majority of parents allow their children to use messaging apps and social media to stay in touch with friends and family.

“Helping children navigate the digital world has become a crucial element of parenting,” said Jim Accomando, president of National PTA. “Through the poll, we explored the prevalence of young children using social media and messaging apps and gauged how they are using these tools. The results make our efforts to empower parents to help their children be safe and responsible online that much more important.”

Key findings revealed that:

  • 61% of parents said their children under age 13 use messaging apps and/or social media.
  • 81% of parents said their children started using social media between the ages of eight and 13.
  • 64% of parents whose children under 13 use social media say that it provides convenient ways to keep in touch and keep track of their children when they are not with them; 61% of parents whose children under 13 use messaging apps feel similarly.
  • 57% of children who use social media are using their own device, and 58% of children who use messaging apps are using their own device.

Through the poll, parents also reported wanting to help their young children use social media and messaging apps responsibly—nearly nine in 10 say that they monitor their children’s online activities. More than half of parents said they would not allow their children to use social media and messaging apps without monitoring tools. However, parents reported they’d like to have a greater say in their young child’s use of social media and messaging apps: nearly three-quarters of parents whose children use messaging apps indicated that they want more control.

Despite online safety concerns such as bullying, parents believe messaging apps and social media can help keep their children safe and can provide good tools for learning. Poll results also show that connecting with family is the primary reason parents allow their young children to use messaging and social media apps.

  • 68% of parents agreed that messaging apps help them connect as a family.
  • 69% of parents said their children use social media to communicate with relatives such as grandparents and cousins.

“As parents, we want our children to connect, learn and have fun through technology, and at the same time, stay safe,” added Nathan R. Monell, CAE, National PTA executive director. “Learning about how families are using social media and messaging apps is a critical component to helping them take advantage of the opportunities that the tools offer while building good digital habits and ensuring children have the skills they need to be responsible in the digital world.”

As part of National PTA’s ongoing digital safety efforts, the association encourages families to have open, ongoing conversations about devices and technology use and establish ground rules together using The Smart Talk. National PTA remains committed to helping parents empower their children to become smart digital citizens in an increasingly connected world.

To read the survey results from Lincoln Park Strategies, visit PTA.org.

About National PTA

National PTA® comprises millions of families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders devoted to the educational success of children and the promotion of family engagement in schools. PTA is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit association that prides itself on being a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for public education. Membership in PTA is open to anyone who wants to be involved and make a difference for the education, health, and welfare of children and youth. For more information, visit PTA.org.

Media Contact

Heidi May Wilson, National PTA

hmay@pta.org, (703) 518-1242

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