Charity issues livestreaming child exploitation warning

Barnardos says increasing popularity of live streaming sites among young people is helping abusers target children as young as eight.

Joe Lepper | 14th Feb 19
Image shows screen with Twitch screening service

A charity is warning that children as young as eight are being sexually exploited via live streaming services.

Barnardo’s says that in previous years the youngest victims of child sexual exploitation accessing its support were aged 10 years-old.

But this has reduced to eight-years-old due to the increasing popularity of live streaming among young people, who are vulnerable to predators using comment functions on streaming sites to target victims and encourage them to engage in sexual activity online.

The charity is calling for technology companies to have a legal duty to prevent children being harmed online.

Parents are also being urged to help protect their children online through a better understanding of security settings.

“When we think of young people who have been sexually exploited, a stereotypically ‘vulnerable’ child may come to mind; someone in the care system, who doesn’t have a reliable support network or who is disengaged with education,” said Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan.

“But the fact is that any child can become the victim of sexual exploitation or abuse, even children in loving, stable families.

“Without the right security settings, children broadcasting live video of themselves over the internet could be targeted by abusers in their bedrooms. It’s vital that parents get to know and understand the technology their children are using and make sure they have appropriate security settings in place.

“They should also talk to their children about sex and relationships and the possible risks and dangers online so children feel able to confide in them if something doesn’t feel right.

“We are also calling for a legal duty on technology companies to prevent children being harmed online.” 

Increasing popularity of livestreaming

Live streaming services have become increasingly popular among children and young people in recent years. A YouGov survey by Barnardo’s last year found that more than one in four children aged ten admitted live streaming content over the internet using apps meant for people aged over the age of 13.