NSPCC survey highlights online dangers of child abuse

A teenage girl on her laptop computer.
A teenage girl on her laptop computer.

“A few months ago I began using a site where you talk to strangers on webcam.

“At first I only showed my face and would look for anyone to have a normal everyday conversation with but then I showed myself.

“I feel so dirty and ashamed of myself, I don’t even know who I am anymore.”

This statement from a 14-year-old girl is one of the many young people who share their regrets and anxieties with Childline about having been involved in live online conversations, where they have been persuaded, pressurised or blackmailed into exposing themselves.

Most of us talk to people online – it’s a great way to stay connected.

It can even be a good way of making new friends sometimes.

But it’s really important to understand the dangers of talking to someone you don’t know.

A recent NSPCC survey of 3,611 children in the North of England, aged seven to 16, revealed 29% have live streamed, and 15% have video-chatted with someone they have never met in person.

Of the children who video-chatted with someone they hadn’t met, more than one in eight had been asked to get undressed, and one in 20 children who had live-streamed were asked to remove their clothes.

This is sexual abuse and if this has happened to a young person then it is important they talk to a trusted adult about it and also realise it is not their fault.

If a sexual image or video of a young person has been shared online, a report can be made to the Internet Watch Foundation without anyone getting involved.

They will speak to the website to try and get it removed.

For free confidential advice and support about any worries, children and young people can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or www.childline.org.uk.

The NSPCC’s Wild West Web campaign is calling for the creation of an independent regulator that will hold social networks to account and force them to introduce measures to make live-streaming and video-chatting safer.

On children’s accounts there should be real-time nudity detection and live video must be limited to contacts approved by the child.

The technology is available to do this and we must surely be asking why the industry is not doing more, you can do this by signing our petition.