Survey: 22% of Lower Elementary Students Communicate with Strangers on Social Media; Over 30% Also Send Photos, Videos

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Elementary school students use a smartphone.

Over 30% of first, second and third grade elementary students who have communicated with strangers online, including on social media, have sent photos or videos of themselves, according to a survey by the Tokyo metropolitan government.

The metropolitan government has called for the implementation of filtering tools that limit children’s access to social media platforms and other online content as a preventative measure.

The survey was conducted from Jan. 5 to 19 with 2,000 parents and guardians who allow their elementary, junior high school or high school children to have their own smartphone or tablet device.

Asked if their children had communicated with strangers on social media or other online platforms, 19% of respondents said “Yes.” The largest age bracket to respond in the affirmative was elementary school students in first, second and third grade (22.6%), followed by high school students (20.6%), junior high school students (18.4%) and elementary school students in fourth, fifth and sixth grade (14.2%).

Regarding the details of their online communications with strangers, 61.7% of all respondents answered with “exchanging messages,” and 37.5% answered with “playing online games against each other and chatting.”

The percentage of children who had exchanged photos or videos of their faces or bodies came to 20.3%. The percentage was highest among elementary school children in first, second and third grade at 33.6%.

“Young children do not understand the risks of social media and other online content, and they tend to fall into danger easily,” an official of the metropolitan government said. “In order to protect children from online dangers, a combination of measures needs to be taken, such as using filtering tools and making rules on the use of smartphones.”