NSPCC finds children are being contacted by people they don't know online

A quarter of children have been contacted by someone they don't know online

Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram were shown to be risky apps

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Research has shown that a quarter of children have been contacted online by someone they don’t know.

The NSPCC and O2 surveyed 2,059 children and 2,049 parents for the NSPCC’s Net Aware guide, which covers 40 of the most popular social media sites, apps and games used by children.

A third of the children who said they’d been contacted by a stranger were under 13.

Facebook and YouTube ranked highly when it came to children having seen adult or violent content, and Twitter and Reddit were also shown to carry a risk.

“When you’re watching a video of something like a makeup artist, a video can be at the side of something completely different that could be sexual/hurtful or anything else. It’s easy to get yourself into a bad video,” said one 16-year-old girl, who reviewed YouTube.

A 13-year-old who as asked about Facebook said: “I don’t like that random people can send you a friend request.”

There are also other, lesser-known platforms shown to pose a risk: Sarahah, an anonymous messaging app, was removed by the Apple and Google app stories in February after parents claimed their children were being bullied on it.

Omegle, which is similar to Chatroulette in that it allows you to communicate with randomly-chosen strangers, and Roblox, a multiplayer online game where users build their own games with Lego-like blocks, also came up in the survey as being risky.

Two thirds of children said they knew how to report inappropriate content, block other users or change their location settings, showing that some young people were aware of how to keep themselves safe online.

NSPCC’s Associate Head of Child Safety (Online) told Julia Hartley-Brewer this morning that the new statistics should be a “wake-up call”.

“It’s absolutely concerning that a quarter of children have been contacted by someone they don’t know online.

“At the NSPCC every day we hear of children who’ve seen inappropriate content on social networks and who’ve been the victims of grooming,” he said.

“We’ve had a decade or so where social networks have been able to mark their own homework when it comes to child safety, we’ve seen time and again that they’ve committed to self-regulation but they haven’t practically put in the safeguarding that we would expect and that parents would want to see in place.

“We’re calling on the government to step in – we think it’s time for the Culture Secretary Matt Hancock to commit to statutory regulation of these sites.

Burrows said that a voluntary self-regulation policy for social media sites “simply won’t work”.