Children as young as 11 are now actively shaping their online ‘personal brand’

Research by AXA has found that children as young as 11 are managing their ‘personal brand’ online.

23 September 2011

Posted in Financial results

by Jennifer Chilcott (see media contact)

The study, conducted by the Ambition AXA Awards for talented young people, has found that even before they have finished primary school, there is a real awareness of how they present themselves to others online - and managing personal reputation online is seen as crucial.

While 75 per cent of 11 to 18-year-olds use social media sites such as Facebook, Bebo and Twitter to keep in touch with friends and family, two-thirds (36 per cent) say they use it to tell people about themselves. By the time they reach 17 to 18 years of age, that figure rises to 42 per cent.

The importance of social media to the young is summed up in these two revealing statistics: 90 per cent use it, and even at 11, just 14 per cent doubt social media's role in making themselves look good to others; by the time they reach 17 to 18, most deem it 'very important'.

Indeed, almost one in five (18 per cent) of 11 to 12-year-olds - far higher than in any other age group - using a professional photograph for their profile picture would be the most popular way to improve their personal image online, reflecting the influence of celebrity culture.

Other manipulations among this age group (reflected across the other ages too) include: making friends with people they don't know so they appear to have more friends (21 per cent), exaggerating social activities (18 per cent), de-tagging unflattering photos (18 percent), adding 'cool' people to their friends and contacts (14 per cent) and exaggerating personal details such as height and interests (12 per cent).

The importance of social media to today's generation cannot be underestimated. The fact that two-thirds of children as young as 11 are already using social media sites to create - and manipulate - their online ‘brand” seems to be driven by the ambition to &lsqup;look good’, perhaps driven by influential celebrity culture.

However, rather than exaggerate or deceive others by manipulating their profile, children should be encouraged to get out there and achieve - no faking necessary. That's what the Ambition AXA Awards are all about; encouraging and rewarding those who are making the best of themselves and their talents.

Jason Bradbury, presenter of the Gadget Show and a judge of the science category of the Ambition AXA Awards

One in five 11 to 12-year-olds say they aim to be the best in the world at what they do, a determination unmatched by older age groups, outdoing even 17 to 18-year-olds in their drive to succeed. According to the survey, just 5 per cent of these pre-teens say they don't feel at all driven to succeed, and few (also 5 per cent) believe achievement is overrated.

However, what they will succeed in is another matter, with interests chopping and changing at that age: they, more than any other age group, say they are likely to be obsessed by a certain idea or project (of which they have many), but are likely to lose interest or set a goal and then later decide to pursue another one (34 per cent say they that's ‘very much’ or ‘mostly like’ them, dropping with age to 24 per cent at the age of 17-18).

The study was commissioned to support AXA's initiative, the Ambition AXA Awards. The £200,000 awards scheme for 11-18 year olds was launched in March to reward young UK talent and achievement in Enterprise, Science, Community, Sport and The Arts. Five talented young people could each win a bespoke mentoring prize worth up to £40,000 (a total prize fund of £200,000). The deadline for applications is 14 October and winners will be announced on 30 November 2011, after which the judging panel will help the winners to create a development package that will help them to achieve their goals.