A NEW programme to help children deal with the pressures of social media will be launched at Bournemouth’s SafeWise centre later this year.

The increasing use of platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter has prompted the new Chief Executive, Rob Hattersley, to rethink the way it helps young people to stay safe online.

The new programme was announced after a report revealed that youngsters struggle to cope with the demands of social media as they move from primary school to secondary school.

Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield said she is worried that pupils become anxious about their identity and start to crave “likes” and “comments” on social media.

And she called on parents and schools to help children prepare emotionally for the “significant risks” as they move schools and meet new classmates, many of whom have their own phones.

“They find themselves chasing likes, chasing validation, being very anxious about their appearance online and offline and feeling that they can’t disconnect - because that will be seen as socially damaging” she said.

The SafeWise centre has many different scenarios designed to help young people stay safe in a variety of situations such as a house, a road, a beach and a railway line.

Mr Hattersley said: “Police and schools already work on social media safety but we hope to put it in a real context.

“We would like to have a mobile phone shop as one of our scenarios where we could take the children.”

He said children often compete as to how many “friends” they have on social media but added: “We want to tell them it is OK to say no to friend requests because if they accept them all their phones will be full of people they don’t know.”

Authors of the report spoke to a number of children including an 11-year-old boy who said: “If I got 150 likes, I’d be like, ‘that’s pretty cool, it means they like you’” and an 11-year-old girl who said: “I saw a pretty girl and everything she has I want, my aim is to be like her.”