LONDON: Social media companies need to act now to protect children after Barnardo’s reveals more than half of 12-year-olds have posted live videos on apps and websites meant for older children and adults.
A survey by YouGov for Barnardo’s found that 57% of 12-year-olds and more than one-in-four children aged 10 (28%) have admitted live streaming content over the internet.
Almost a quarter of 10 to 16 year-olds (24%) say they or a friend have regretted posting live content on apps and websites, UK-wide research for the leading children’s charity reveals.
The results of the online survey of 1,000 10-16 year olds by YouGov for Barnardo’s 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.
Despite the recent announcement by Culture Secretary, Matt Hancock, that the government would produce a white paper about online safety, Barnardo’s says urgent action is needed to protect children now.
It’s hoped the government’s internet safety white paper will force tech giants to provide compulsory child safety features, such as verifying users’ ages but Barnardo’s says online companies need to act without delay to protect children who are accessing services inappropriate for their ages.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said: “Livestreaming is being used by predators to groom children online. We know from our specialist services 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 livestreaming apps that are not appropriate for their ages so tech giants need to ensure they put robust age-verification rules in place.
“Theresa May vowed to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online. 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 say they post self-generated content that they wished they hadn’t. The polling found 30% of 13 year olds and 38% of 16 year olds regretted, or had a friend who regretted posting live content.
Also, 39% of 10 to 16 year olds said they are, or would be, worried that strangers could contact them if they were posting live content.
Just 14% said nothing would worry them about livestreaming and half of the respondents said they do not post live content.
Barnardo’s UK-wide child sexual exploitation services have seen a 38% 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.
Chief Constable Simon Bailey National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Child Protection said:
“Police forces are doing more than ever to stop children from being groomed online, but we cannot arrest our way out of the problem. 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.”
Internet Matters, Chief Executive Carolyn Bunting said: “It’s vital that parents keep on top of emerging trends in how children are communicating with one another online. Livestreaming and broadcasting yourself live online presents new potential risks and challenges for parents who want to ensure their children are living a safe digital life. It’s important they know exactly what those risks are and the advice that goes with them.
“Make sure you understand who is viewing your child’s broadcasts, that they are not giving away personal information that could lead to identification, such as home address or intimate daily routines, and that they know what to do and who to turn to if they are worried about something or if anything goes wrong.”
Childnet, Chief Executive Will Gardner said: “Our regular conversations and research with children and young people tell us there are many positive ways that they are engaging with livestreaming, from sharing their game play with others to interacting with their favourite celebrities.
“However, there are potential risks and it is essential that we equip children with the skills and confidence they need to use livestreaming services safely, responsibly and positively. We also need to continue listening to children to ensure we understand their needs and concerns in this fast-changing space”.
Barnardo’s also insists that children are made aware of the dangers online in the delayed compulsory relationship and sex education lessons in all English schools that it successfully campaigned for. Three-quarters of children between the ages of 11 and 15 felt they would be safer if they had age-appropriate sex and relationship education (SRE), according to a YouGov poll for the charity last year.
Nearly half of all the 10-16 year olds (49%) polled have posted live content. Asked why they want to live stream videos, 30% said because it’s fun, 25% enjoy posting content with their friends, 16% like to let others know what they’re doing and 14% like it when their posts get shared or commented on.
Just 5% said it was because it allowed them to talk to new people or because they wanted to be a social media star.