A survey conducted by the children’s charity Barnardo’s has discovered that more than two-thirds of children aged 12 or under have posted live videos on apps and websites meant for older children and adults.
The survey was conducted by YouGov. It found that 69 per cent of 12-year-olds living in the capital and more than one-in-four children aged 10 (27 per cent) have admitted live streaming content over the internet.
The findings are alarming for child protection groups and charities, such as Barnardo’s, who are aware of the high risk of some online sites being abused by sexual predators.
Barnardo’s chief executive, Javed Khan, said: “Live streaming is being used by predators to groom children online. We know from our specialist services in London and across the UK that children are at risk of ‘live grooming’ on online platforms.
“Tech companies are simply not doing enough to keep children safe. Our research shows that children use live streaming apps that are not appropriate for their ages so tech giants need to ensure they put robust age-verification rules in place.”
YouGov surveyed 1,000 10-to-16-year-olds across the country; their findings suggest thousands of younger children may be putting themselves at risk by sharing live videos on sites with a minimum age limit of 13. These include SnapChat, YouTube, Instagram Stories, Facebook Live, Musical.ly and Live.ly, which provide inadequate safety controls and settings.
Culture Secretary, Matt Hancock, recently announced that the government would produce a White Paper about online safety. But Barnardo’s says urgent action is needed to protect children now.
“Theresa May vowed to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online,” Khan said. “We welcome Matt Hancock’s commitment to making this happen but new laws are not expected for at least two years and this is simply not good enough for the children who need protecting now.
“We need urgent action to protect the next generation of children – any delay to act could put another generation of children in danger online.”
As well as potentially exposing them to online sexual predators and harmful content, many youngsters who were surveyed said that they post self-generated content that they wished they hadn’t. The polling found more than half of London’s 16-year-olds regretted, or had a friend who regretted, posting live content.
Barnardo’s is calling for tech giants to provide compulsory child safety features, such as verifying users’ ages. They say that the companies can take the action now, without the need for legislation, because it is the right thing to do.
Barnardo’s UK-wide child sexual exploitation services have seen a 38 per cent year-on-year increase in the number of people they support and its research indicates nearly half of the children they help have been groomed online, with two-thirds going on to be sexually abused offline.
“Police forces are doing more than ever to stop children from being groomed online, but we cannot arrest our way out of the problem,” said Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for child protection. “By the time abuse comes to our attention, damage is already done.
“Parents need to talk to their children about how to stay safe online and make sure that they have the confidence to speak up if they are approached by a stranger.
“The internet companies need to make sure that they have the necessary measures in place to prevent abuse happening on their platforms. More has to be done to protect children from the terrible harm we are now seeing all too frequently.”
In 2015 Barnardo’s and Marie Collins Foundation released the Digital Dangers report, looking at the impact of technology on the sexual abuse and exploitation of children and young people. It concluded all children are vulnerable to being groomed and sexually exploited on the internet via mobile technology.
If you need more help and advice on this subject, you can contact Barnardo’s via the charity website.
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