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Children under 13 being targeted by adults they don’t know on social media

[N]ew NSPCC and O2 research has revealed that one in four young people have been contacted over social media by an adult they don’t know, with a third of these children aged under 13.

2,059 children and 2,049 parents were surveyed for Net Aware, the essential guide to 40 of the most popular social media sites, apps and games that young people use, produced by NSPCC in partnership with O2.

Children and parents were asked if they’d seen violent, bullying or adult content on the social networking sites and games that children use – with Facebook and YouTube receiving high risk ratings across the board.

Other sites found to be risky included Twitter and Reddit, with both rated high for inappropriate content. Other sites in the top 15 most risky platforms included lesser known names that parents may not be aware of such as Sarahah, Episode: Choose Your Story, Omegle, ROBLOX and Yubo (formerly called Yellow).

A 16-year-old girl who reviewed YouTube said: “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.”

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

A mother from the North West who reviewed Instagram said: “Full frontal nudity of men. Continuous posting of these pictures seconds apart from same accounts. Sexualised images of young girls who are advertising adult chat lines.”

Positively, Net Aware highlighted that two-thirds of young people know how to perform safety functions including reporting inappropriate content, blocking someone online and changing privacy and location settings.

The NSPCC and O2 encourages parents to use Net Aware to build their confidence in having regular and informed conversations about what their child is doing online – just as they would about their day at school.

NSPCC CEO Peter Wanless said: “Worryingly we are hearing from children as young as 13 who have been contacted by adults they don’t know on social media, which can be extremely upsetting.”

“In addition our research shows children are being exposed to inappropriate and harmful content across a range of social networking sites and games, from the big names to those perhaps lesser known to parents.

“That’s why it’s so important for parents to download the Net Aware app so they can keep up to speed with new sites, apps and games as they appear and the risks they present. Net Aware does all the work, updating parents with the latest reviews, news and risks about sites their children are using and providing tips and advice to keep them safe online.”

Nina Bibby, CMO at O2 says: “Net Aware is a great way for parents to stay up to date with their children’s digital world. Our latest update now covers 40 of the most popular sites, apps or games – helping parents to support their kids to explore and enjoy the online world safely. While it’s encouraging to see that children increasingly know about social media safety settings, the constantly evolving digital world means that it’s more important than ever for organisations like O2 and the NSPCC to work together to keep kids safe online.”

A spokesman for Yubo said: “Yubo has been working intensively over the last 18 months to address the risks and challenges young people face online using the service. This has included meeting with the NSPCC and CEOP in the UK on regular basis to consider their concerns and the safety measures in development at Yubo. As a result, we have implemented a robust safety approach to help strictly enforce our community rules.

“Unlike any other social media service Yubo has introduced ‘live’ human intervention for any behaviour involving nudity whereby users are given 1 minute to behave appropriately, or be removed from the service.

“Additionally, the Yubo team meets with a range of online child safety experts from across the world, law enforcement and industry peers to share and seek advice about effective solutions and appointing a leading child safety expert Annie Mullins OBE.

“We’ve implemented real-time content human moderators and developed advanced language and image monitoring tools. This enables Yubo to quickly identify and remove inappropriate content and address any inappropriate behavior. We also validate every user registering for the service by requiring a mobile phone number during sign-up.

“Yubo is highly motivated to better understand the experiences teens using our platform so that we can help better protect them.”

The Net Aware app can be downloaded for free from the Apple Store or Google Play. It can also be accessed online at www.net-aware.org.uk.

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