'Schools should teach dangers of livestreaming'

Charity calls for action as poll reveals many children are posting content that they later regret

Hélène Mulholland

social media

Schools are being told to teach the dangers of livestreaming, as a poll reveals many children are posting content that they later regret.

More than a quarter (28 per cent) of 10-year-olds and more than half (57 per cent) of 12-year-olds said they had livestreamed content on the internet, according to a poll by the children’s charity, Barnardo’s.

The charity warns that, as well as potentially exposing children to online sexual predators and harmful content, many youngsters are left with regrets after livestreaming.

Almost a quarter of 10- to 16-year-olds (24 per cent) say they or a friend have regretted posting live content on apps and website.

Barnardo’s wants pupils to be taught the dangers of livestreaming at school.

It also says social media companies should introduce compulsory child safety features on apps and websites that have a minimum age of 13.

These include SnapChat, YouTube, Instagram Stories, Facebook Live, Musical.ly and Live.ly.

The YouGov survey polled 1,126 children across the UK aged between 10 and 16.

Asked why they wanted to live stream videos, 30 per cent of those said it was fun, 25 per cent enjoyed posting content with their friends, 16 per cent liked to let others know what they are doing and 14 per cent liked it when their posts were shared or commented on.

Barnardo’s UK-wide child sexual exploitation services have seen a 38 per cent year-on-year increase in the number of people supported.

Its research indicates that nearly half of the children helped by the charity have been groomed online, with two-thirds going on to be sexually abused offline. 

Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said:  "Livestreaming is being used by predators to groom children online. We know from our specialist services across the UK that children are at risk of ‘live grooming’ on online platforms. “

He added: “We need urgent action to protect the next generation of children – any delay to act could put another generation of children in danger online.”

Separate polling conducted by Barnardo’s last year found that three-quarters of children between the ages of 11 and 15 felt they would be safer if they had age-appropriate sex and relationship education (SRE).

The charity argues that the dangers of engaging online need to be included in the compulsory relationship and sex education lessons.

Culture secretary Matt Hancock has said he wants a fines system for social media companies that fail to prevent under 13s from signing up to accounts, but he said over the weekend that it is likely to be two years before any new legislation  to rein in social media firms is introduced. 

Will Gardner, chief executive of Childnet, the UK charity for digital safety for children, said: “It is essential that we equip children with the skills and confidence they need to use livestreaming services safely, responsibly and positively."

“We also need to continue listening to children to ensure we understand their needs and concerns in this fast-changing space.”

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