SOCIAL media use by children as young as eight has exploded with almost 70% of children and teenagers regularly engaging with other online users.
The Tweens, Teens and Technology report produced by internet security company McAfee surveyed 500 "tweens''- children aged from eight to 12 - about their online technology use.
The research found 67% of the children in that age group who were already using social media were using up to three or four devices at a time, including tablets, mobile phones, laptop and desktop computers, for 1.5 hours a day, to communicate online.
Researcher in social media from Southern Cross University's School of Business at Lismore, Jeremy Novak said he wasn't surprised by most of the report's results.
Mr Novak said children of today had become "digital natives'', regularly schooling their "digital immigrant'' parents on the use of internet enabled devices. He questioned the finding that 95% of parents approved of their tweens using social media.
"Parents have to know the tools of social media and how to use them so they can be protective of their children from cyber bullying and other online issues," he said.
With the impending rollout of the National Broadband Network, Mr Novak said online use by children would naturally grow.
"I would encourage the use of online technology by children under the proviso that parents and schools strictly police how it is being used and what is being accessed."
A mother of four boys who participated in the research, Alex Merton-McCann said it was time for parents to embrace social media.
"I know the online world can be scary for parents, trust me I've been there, but having genuine two-way communication with your children is absolutely fundamental to establishing a safe and positive cyber experience," she said.
WHAT The study found
- 77% of children aged between eight and 12 accessed the internet
- 67% used social media.
- 95% of those children already using social media were doing so with their parents' permission.
- 47% used social media to chat with friends
- 27% used social media to send and receive pictures
- 26% of children in the eight to 12 age group were using Facebook despite the site's rules requiring participants to be aged over 13 years.
- 25% had witnessed cyber bullying online with 71% of those kids reporting it to their parents.