NSPCC calls for action to tackle online grooming

The children’s charity campaign highlights the high number of children who are falling prey to abusers and online grooming via social networks.

Joe Lepper | 17th Oct 18
Image shows child using a tablet to get online

The NSPCC has launched an online safety campaign calling for action to protect children from abuse when livestreaming and video-chatting.

The campaign is using the social media hashtag #WildWestWeb and is calling for tougher regulation of social networks to force them to make video-chatting and livestreaming safer.

To highlight the need for action the charity has released the results of a survey of early 40,000 children aged between seven and 16, which reveals that a quarter have live streamed and one in eight have video-chatted with someone they have never met in person.

Of the children who have video-chatted with someone they hadn’t met, one in ten had been asked to get undressed and one in 20 children who had livestreamed had been asked to remove clothes.

The campaign also involves real life accounts of grooming where children have fallen prey to abusers online.

This includes 14-year-old Ben who was targeted over Skype and blackmailed and threatened into sending abusers explicit images and to perform sex acts.

Safe accounts needed to protect children

The NSPCC is specifically calling for safe accounts for children, with extra protection put in place. The charity wants live video to be limited to contacts approved by the child as well as real time nudity detection on live stream and video chat on children’s accounts.

An online petition has been set up by the charity calling for tighter regulation.

“The popularity of livestreaming has led to a dangerous cocktail of risks for children,” said NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless.

“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.”