Average child now posts 26 times per day on social media

But only six out of 10 followers are 'real friends'

Updated: 
Millenial checking his tablet and smartphone

New figures reveal children as young as 11 post an average of 26 times a day and attract 100 followers to every one of their profiles - yet six out of 10 of them are not real friends.

The survey by Internet Matters - exploring the extent children aged between 11 and 16 are living their lives online - shows how a child living in Glasgow claimed to post more than three times the amount as a child in Brighton. Children in Glasgow claimed to post 47 times a day, making it the kids social media capital of Britain; compared to Brighton where the average was 13 times a day.

The average child has 144 friends on Facebook, 125 on Instagram, 114 Twitter followers and 90 on Snapchat, according to the poll. However, they said they only have 43 friends in real life away from social media.

Parents are being given tips on how to tackle issues from privacy, tagging and geo-location settings, to stranger-danger, cyberbullying and sexting, so they are more confident in keeping up with what their children are doing online and dealing with the rapid pace of change in the digital playground.

Associate Professor Dr Emma Bond, an expert in children and mobile technologies in child behaviour at the University Campus Suffolk (UCS), commented: "Childhood is a time when friendship is really important. At any age having friends is important for good mental health and wellbeing and children's friendships are vital to their social and emotional development. Children want to have lots of friends and be liked both in the playground and online. Social media gives them the opportunity to socialise with their friends but also to have people as online friends that they have never met in real life. Many children, however, are unaware of the dangers of having online friends who are actually strangers."

Just like helping their children through friendship problems in real-life - helping them in their online worlds is just as important.

Dr Bond added: "Parents want their children to talk to them if they have a problem or if they are worried about something. Parents want to help their children but when it comes to social media, virtual realities or online gaming, they often feel that they do not have enough knowledge or experience. It's vitally important that parents talk to their children about the internet, social media and mobile technologies."

67% of children surveyed said the number of followers or friends' on social media was important to them. Over half said they would 'always' or 'sometimes' accept friend requests from people they had never met.

Four out of 10 admitted they 'sometimes' or 'always' changed their privacy settings to 'public' to attract more friends and followers. 56% always set their profiles to 'private', 8% say they never did and 36% 'sometimes' would.

Over half of children said they were 'sometimes' or 'always' feeling under pressure from friends to be on social media. 58% said they had blocked or unfriended someone because they were unkind. Over half of children (54%) thought they spent too long on social media and 62% said their parents thought the same about them.

Facebook was by far the most popular network among those surveyed – with 83% of 11 to 16-year-olds having a profile. This compares to just 39% on Twitter. Meanwhile, 62% of 11-year-olds and 69% of 12-year-olds said they had a Facebook profile, despite an age minimum of 13. YouTube has become the second most popular social media tool for children. More than half of children said they had a profile (51%).

Carolyn Bunting, General Manager of Internet Matters, said: "We know parents find it hard to talk to their children about digital safety and often bury their heads in the sand, especially when it comes to social media and they see their children skipping from network to network. We have created some resources which we hope will provide practical support for whatever your child is doing on the internet. Most importantly we want to hammer home the importance of talking to your children in the offline world so you can keep them safe in the online world."