I find it fascinating that when going out to a nice, new, hip restaurant with any of my teenage relatives, they take lots of photos with their smartphones and upload their faves to the preferred social media site du jour. Not photos of us as a group. Not of the décor. Not usually even of the food. Nope, instead it’s a number of selfies posed in the restaurant. But it can be any restaurant anywhere, because all you can see is a close-up of the face. (But at least these selfies are harmless.)

I took this topic to our CivicScience polling and data mining platform this summer, asking respondents over age 13 what they think about parental oversight for selfies and age-level appropriateness. Where do we find differences in opinion, aside from age?

Let’s start with the first question about oversight, where there is near-universal consensus that some oversight is needed:

How closely should kids be monitored when posting selfies?

94% of the 2,773 respondents say children under age 18 should be somewhat or very closely monitored with regard to posting selfies online. Okay, so let’s have Captain Obvious take a seat and find some interesting insights in this data:

  • Women are somewhat more likely than men to answer “Very closely,” showing more strictness on the parental oversight spectrum.
  • Not much of a surprise that respondents under age 18 were significantly more likely to say “Somewhat closely” or “Not at all closely” than other age groups. As an example, 12% of the youngsters said “Not at all closely” to monitoring vs. 4% of those aged 35 to 44.
  • Interestingly, those in the next age group – 18 to 24 year olds – were even MORE likely at 14% to say “Not at all closely.”
  • Respondents living in urban areas are also more likely to say “Not at all closely” but here again, we see that the 18-24 year old group is a big factor; they tend to prefer city living.

Clearly, we’re not going to unearth mind-blowing insights on that question, given the age proxy factor. So let’s move on.

For the next selfie question, we asked respondents to give us their opinion as to what age is appropriate for kids to post them online. By a nose, the majority at 51% say that nobody under the age of 18 should be posting selfies:

Age appropriateness for posting selfies

11% believe that any age is appropriate, which I figured is largely made up of the under 18 crowd and even some of the 18-24 groups. But when we look at only the 2,575 adult respondents to this age appropriateness question, the answers don’t actually change that much: 10% of adults believe that any age is okay for selfie posting and 55% say nothing under 18 is appropriate.  So let’s focus on the adults-only data:

  • Adult men are almost 3X more likely than adult women to say any age is appropriate (15% vs. 5%)
  • 18-24 year olds are more lenient here than older adults – 20% say any age is appropriate – but 25-29 years olds are even more liberal, with 27% saying the same. Everyone older falls in the 5%-10% range here.
  • Those who say any age is appropriate are more likely to have school-aged children living with them (13% vs 9% who don’t).
  • Politically, adults who say any age is appropriate are more likely to be Independents (16%) vs. Democrats (11%) and Republicans (4%). Republicans are more likely to say nobody under age 18 should post selfies (72% vs. 44% for Democrats and 50% for Independents).
  • Adults who use smartphones are most likely to answer in favor of children reaching 14-15 or 16-17 years in age as appropriate times for posting selfies online.
  • Among adults who say no selfies under age 18, 67% of them also say they are very concerned about bullying.
  • Also noteworthy among those adults who say nothing under 18 is appropriate, 37% of them do not have their own Twitter account, 58% have never heard of Tumblr, and 41% of them have never heard of Instagram.

So what have we learned? While monitoring of kids’ selfies on the Internet is pretty much agreed upon, the appropriate age in which children should post selfies online remains a fairly divided issue, with about half of adults saying no children under age 18 should do it and the other half believing that some younger ages are suitable. Men are overall more liberal than women in their opinions on these matters. Parents seem to be a little more liberal on this topic, hopefully because they are closely monitoring their children’s online activities.

What is surprising is the sizable percentage of adults who have never heard of some of the more popular social media sites. Combine that with kids’ use of sites outside of the adult mainstream such as Ask.fm and Vine, along with photo-disappearing apps such as SnapChat, who’s to say how much parents are actually able to catch when monitoring is attempted?

As a side note, perhaps somebody should be monitoring Kim Kardashian and her obsession with selfies — doesn’t sound like monetizing that behavior will be nearly as lucrative as her recent smartphone video game:

Will consumers buy Kim Kardashian selfies book


About the CivicScience Methodology:

CivicScience collects real-time consumer research data via polling applications that run on hundreds of U.S. publisher websites, cycling through thousands of active questions on any given day. Respondents answer just for fun and are kept anonymous, allowing for greatly reduced bias and higher levels of engagement. Using cookie technology, CivicScience builds deep psychographic profiles of these anonymous respondents over time, providing valuable consumer sentiment data to the decision makers who care. The CivicScience methodology has been validated by a team of academic leaders and by independent consulting firms. Responses may be weighted for U.S. census representativeness for gender and age.