Four out of five children feel that social media companies aren’t doing enough to protect them from pornography, self-harm, bullying, and hatred on their sites, new research has found.
Out of the 1,696 children and young people surveyed across the UK 1,380 said social media sites needed to do more to protect them from inappropriate or harmful content.
The findings are revealed in the latest Net Aware guide - the UK’s only parents’ guide to 39 of the most popular social media sites, apps, and games used by young people - produced by the NSPCC in partnership with O2.
It follows the most recent figures from Childline for Northern Ireland which showed that in 2015/16 the free helpline carried out 318 counselling sessions with children from Northern Ireland because of bullying, including online bullying.
In the same year, 164 counselling sessions about online sexual abuse – including sexting, being made to perform sex acts on webcam and viewing distressing sexually explicit content – were carried out with children in Northern Ireland.
When polled for the new Net Aware guide, children rated ASKfm, Omegle, IMVU, and Facebook as some of the most risky sites, prompting the NSPCC and O2 to urge parents to look beyond the “big names” and find out about the lesser known apps their children are using.
A girl, aged 16, who reviewed ASKfm, said: “It had no strict controls which led to lots of hurtful messages being spread about people, which I believe contributed to people self-harming or just feeling negative about themselves.”
A 15-year-old girl, who reviewed IMVU, said: “There are some people on the site who are very unstable and vulnerable who are taken advantage of.”
Pokemon Go, Periscope, IMVU, and Live.ly are among the new apps to be featured on Net Aware, along with the more well-known sites including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.
To inform the guide, the NSPCC consulted 1,696 children and young people and 674 parents and guardians.
Despite the risks that many children reported, 87% of young people asked said they knew how to keep themselves safe online.
The NSPCC and O2 encouraged parents to visit Net Aware so that they could stay up to speed with apps and their safety issues so that they could help their child protect themselves online.
Head of NSPCC in Northern Ireland, Neil Anderson, said: “It’s vital parents know about their child’s online world and regularly talk with their children about how to get help if they need it.
“We all know that the internet develops at breakneck speed and it can feel nearly impossible to keep up with all of the constantly changing sites, games, and apps that young people use. Net Aware does all the work for parents by updating them with information, risks, and issues on sites their children are using.
“Rather than trying to work out which app is trending or hearing second hand about which site poses a risk, parents can turn to the Net Aware hub for all the information, support, and advice they need to help keep their children safe online.”
The Net Aware guide is free to access at www.net-aware.org.uk or to download as an app from the Apple Store or Google Play.