STUDENTS
03/11/2011 07:48 GMT | Updated 03/01/2012 05:12 GMT

Facebook: Children Young As Seven 'Addicted To Social Networking'

Around 50% of seven to 12-year-olds use Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites every day, according to a survey by consumer analysts Mintel.

For one million of these youngsters joining Facebook is viewed as a "rite of passage" and "an absolute must-have" according to the researchers. Only 5% of the youngsters surveyed didn't use the site.

Peer pressure persuades kids where they go online, as nearly two-thirds of seven to twelve year-olds choose how to communicate depending on what sites their friends visit.

Twitter and Club Penguin rate the most highly after Facebook, though only 9% use Disney's 'social community' every day.

Girls are most likely to fall victim to the pressures associated with social networking sites, with two thirds of those who value their mobile phone as a prized possession being female. Less than half of the boys surveyed gave the same result.

There's similar trends for Facebook usage, with 10 to 12-year-old girls being the group most likely to use the site every day.

A spokesperson for Facebook said:

“Recent reports have highlighted just how difficult it is to implement age restrictions on the Internet and that there is no single solution to ensuring younger children don’t circumvent a system or lie about their age.

“We agree with safety experts that communication between parents/guardians and kids about their use of the Internet is vital. Just as parents are always teaching and reminding kids how to cross the road safely, talking about internet safety should be just as important a lesson to learn.”

Bad news for parents though, as two thirds of children admitted that "pester power" worked for them. Almost a fifth spent at least three hours watching TV a day. Only the latest gadgets will do for many of them, with nearly a quarter of tech-savvy seven to 12-year-olds using their smart-phone to go online.

Despite this the majority of children recognised the importance of being fit and healthy.