Even though children below age 13 aren’t supposedly allowed on most social media sites, 67% of Australian “tweens” (kids ages 8-12) are socializing online, according to a new study by McAfee, based on a survey of 500 young Aussies. That figure includes 28% who use Skype and 26% who use Facebook. Perhaps more alarming for their parents is the fact that 19% of Aussie tweens say they have chatted to someone they don’t know online.
In terms of devices, Aussie tweens had access to an average of three to four devices that are Internet-capable, including 66% who have access to mobile phones or tablets. 54% said they use a tablet for over an hour every day; overall Aussie tweens said they spend an average 1.5 hours per day online.
It’s no surprise Australian tweens are piling into social media, considering their parents are more or less addicted: a separate study, the 2013 Yellow Social Media Report, found that 65% of the Australian Internet population use social networks, with the majority accessing social sites over five times a day. The same study found that 34% of Aussies log on from work, 18% in the car, and 13% from school (as well as 6% on the toilet).
Part of the reason the data on Australian tweens is interesting is the apparent absence of similar data on American tweens; while U.S. and Australian tween behaviors probably aren’t identical, I’m guessing they are similar enough that Australian tweens can be used as a proxy for U.S. tweens.
Regarding the lack of data on U.S. tweens’ online behaviors, in November 2012 the Joan Ganz Cooney Center (affiliated with Sesame Workshop) released a “Kids Online” report noting that there is precious little information about social media use by kids under age 13. According to the report, one obstacle to effective tracking is the fact that younger kids don’t behave like teens and adults, or frequent the same social platforms: for example are more likely to engage in online socializing while playing games or exploring virtual worlds.