Facebook’s popularity among children slipped in 2018 as more young people look to Instagram for their social media updates, according to an Ofcom report.
While Facebook remains the most popular social media site among 12 to 15-year-olds, only 31 per cent of people in this age range named it as their main site or app, down from 40 per cent in 2017.
But Instagram has enjoyed a rise in popularity, with 65 per cent of young people now using it. Twenty-three per cent nominated the photo sharing app as their main social media platform, up from 14 per cent in 2017.
Whatsapp has also enjoyed a step up in use among young teenagers, with the proportion using the messaging app rising from 32 per cent to 43 per cent.
The figures come amid growing pressure on Facebook, which owns both Instagram and Whatsapp, to better police the content on its site to protect children.
MPs have called for greater oversight by the tech giant after it emerged 14-year-old Molly Russell committed suicide in 2017 after viewing images relating to self-harm on social media.
Ian Russell, Molly’s father, has said he believes Instagram is partly to blame for his daughter’s death. Health secretary Matt Hancock has warned the sites could face a ban if they fail to remove harmful content.
The report also showed a rise in cyberbullying through social media sites has risen, with 11 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds saying they have been bullied online. In addition, nine per cent said they have been bullied through messaging apps or text, twice the level recorded in 2017.
Last night Facebook’s head of communications Sir Nick Clegg pledged to improve the company’s strategy for protecting children on its social media platforms.
The former deputy prime minister told the BBC the firm will do “whatever its takes” to make young people safer on Facebook and Instagram.
Adele Abbiss, online safety expert at Smoothwall, said: “Social media and technology companies have a huge responsibility to protect those most vulnerable.
“We need to see an invested response from all social media companies to pour more resources into safeguarding both children and adults – a combination of automated technology and employing more people to help combat offensive and harmful behaviour.”