NSPCC calls for action after shocking survey reveals dangers of video-chatting and livestreaming online

Picture: PxHere (Labelled for reuse)
Picture: PxHere (Labelled for reuse)

A CHILDREN’S charity has called on the government to protect youngsters from the risks of livestreaming and video chatting.

An NSPCC survey of 25,987 children in the south east of England has found 22 per cent and 11 per cent of children aged seven to 16 have livestreamed and video-chatted with someone they have never met. 

Now, the charity's Wild West Web campaign is calling for the launch of an independent regulator that will hold social networks to account – forcing them to introduce measures to make livestreaming and video-chatting safer.

Of the children who had video-chatted with someone they had not met, one in ten had been asked to get undressed, and one in 20 who had livestreamed were asked to do the same.

Yorkshire father Carl – whose name has been changed for anonymity purposes – is urging government to take action after abusers used video-chatting app Skype to target his son, Ben. 

When Ben (also an alias) was 14, a man in his twenties pretended to be a teenage girl and groomed him on Facebook.

Over two years that man and five more abusers exploited Ben by using blackmail and threats to coerce him into sending explicit pictures and performing sex acts on Skype.

Carl said: ‘Ben tried to get out of the situation so many times but he couldn’t get out. He was trapped and was too frightened to tell anyone. It’s been devastating.

‘Government must do whatever it can to protect children from being targeted by abusers online. I don’t want any other families to have to go through what we’ve gone through.’

Coining the #WildWestWeb hashtag, the NSPCC’s campaign argues a trio of steps must be taken to make livestreaming safe. 

The charity wants websites to have real-time nudity detection for children’s accounts, for those accounts to carry extra protections and for children to only be able to speak to contacts they have approved. 

Peter Wanless, NSPCC’s chief executive, said: ‘The popularity of livestreaming has led to a dangerous cocktail of risks for children.  Its immediacy means children are being pressured into going along with situations that make them feel uncomfortable.

‘The lure of a big audience, or thinking that they are chatting to someone they can trust, piles on that pressure.  What’s really disturbing is that groomers can then screenshot or record livestreamed abuse, and use it to blackmail the child or share it with others.

‘We urge the public to sign our petition calling on government to introduce tough regulation of social networks to make sure measures are in place to protect children from abuse over livestreaming and video chat.’

The NSPCC study, Livestreaming and Video-Chatting, is published today and highlights dangers children are exposed to.

Nationally, it shows 29 per cent of secondary school children have broadcast themselves online, suggesting a surge after Ofcom's estimate last year that one in ten 12-15 year-olds had livestreamed.

The charity says livestreaming has become more accessible in recent years after sites like Facebook and Instagram built the function into their platforms.

One girl, aged 10-11, said: ‘My friend was doing a live stream and a[sic] adult man was asking for her to video request him, so she did and he showed his private parts.’

Another girl, aged 11-12, said: ‘On Omegle this man was pulling, touching, and showing his privates.’

The home secretary MP Sajid Javid demanded in a speech at the NSPCC last month that social networks tackle the livestreaming of child abuse.

To sign the NSPCC’s petition calling for government action, click here

NSPCC SURVEY FINDINGS 

The NSPCC and LGfL Digisafe, the online safeguarding arm of London Grid for Learning, conducted the largest-ever UK survey of children’s experiences online, with 39,834 respondents aged seven to 16. The location was known for 39,827 children. 

A total of 21,648 primary school children aged seven to 11 and 18,186 secondary school aged 12 to 16 responded to the survey, the majority of whom were from the south east of England.

From the results collected in our region, it was found 5,700 children have livestreamed and five per cent had been asked to remove their clothes – while seven per cent had seen livestreamed with someone who was not fully clothed. 

Meanwhile, 2,912 children had video-chatted and 10 per cent had been asked to remove their clothes – while six per cent had seen livestreamed with someone who was not fully clothed.