University of New England study finds younger teenagers risky on social media

STUDENTS in their early teens are more likely to use social media for inappropriate or bullying purposes than their younger or older peers, a regional survey has found.

Early results from a University of New England study into the social media habits of local and national youth has revealed surprising statistics on how young people interact.

The survey, conducted over the past two years, has found there are more youth who prefer to use video and photo sharing app Snapchat than there are engaged on networking website Facebook.

Around 93 per cent of the respondents reported using Snapchat, a multimedia messaging service that keeps messages for ten seconds or less, with 91 per cent using Facebook.

Photo sharing site Instagram was used by 83 per cent of respondents, but Dr Sue Gregory from the University's school of education said youth are moving towards Snapchat because its sharing functions are instant and discreet.

She said with the new breed of instantaneous sharing channels there is also the temptation for risky behavior.

“We are finding that there is little usage of Snapchat in primary schools but when it's used, it's for fun purposes,” Dr Gregory said.

"In secondary school from year seven it is similar to primary schools, but when they get to year eight they start using it for abuse or sharing in an inappropriate manner or bullying texts. In year eight and year nine, and a little into year ten, they are not realising the consequences of it.

In year eight and year nine, and a little into year ten, they are not realising the consequences of it.

Dr Sue Gregory

“But schools are aware and they do bring in specialists to inform students which is really great. Some have local police come in and talk to them, but if it’s going to improve is hard to know, there are always going to be people who think it is funny to send (rude) photos.

“We knew some children were receiving inappropriate images and texts and we wanted to find out how wide spread that was, we have interviewed a lot of teachers and principals about what they think about it in schools and how they handle it.”

A NSW Department of Education spokesman told The Leader  students are provided with cyber safety advice from Kindergarten to year-10 as part of the science and technology syllabus.

“Students also learn about social media and protective behaviours in an age appropriate way through the mandatory K – 10 Personal Development, Health and Physical Education key learning area,” he said.

“This includes the importance of not sharing inappropriate images and of reporting such activity to relevant staff. NSW public schools take disciplinary action when students are found to be distributing inappropriate images.”