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Rebekka Ikonen (left) and Reetta Räsänen, 9, joined Instagram a few weeks ago. Both have uploaded photos of themselves to the service.Monkey see, monkey do.

Numerous primary school-aged children today have smartphones and use social media. Rather than phone calls and text messages, they stay in touch with their friends by chatting and gaming on mobile platforms.

The Internet offers an abundance of social media services designed expressly for children – and more are to come, targeted at ever-younger children.

The new social media service Momio will be launched in Finland on Saturday. Developed in Denmark, the Facebook-like service is designed for children 7—13 years old.

Satu Valkonen, a senior planning officer at the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare, believes children are keen on using social media because also adults and young adults rely on a number of online platforms to satisfy their communicative needs.

“It's the same as with adults,” she explains.

“You get to stay in touch with your friends, belong to something, be accepted and receive feedback. There, you have the possibility to create your own groups and share important issues, which will be discussed at school the next day.”

Users of services such as Momio, Habbo Hotel and Club Penguin do not log in with their own names and photos but are allowed to participate through an avatar. For Momio, the maximum age limit is 18 years old.

“But we tell parents that also they are welcome to create an avatar to follow what their children are up to,” says Pia Edman, a community manager at watAgame, the creator of Momio.

Meanwhile, attempts to enhance the security features of services used by children continue. Momio, for example, features an automatic word filtering system that triggers an alarm whenever certain words are used in a conversation.

Regardless, Tommi Tossavainen, a planning officer at the National Audiovisual Institute, cautions against lulling into a false sense of security. Although investments in monitoring have been made, the possibility of unwanted contacts with adults persists.

“[The services] all have the same problems,” he reminds.

“Even if it is a service designed specifically to children, parents should be familiar with it.”

Minna Pölkki – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Rio Gandara / HS