A recent NSPCC survey titled ‘Young People’s Experiences of Social Networking Sites’ has estimated that as many as 200,000 young people have been groomed on social media platforms such as Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and Twitch.
The study which used data from 11-17 year olds identified that 1 in 25 of those asked had been sent, received or been asked to send sexual content to an adult.
Some young people said they had been deceived into believing they were talking to people of their own age and were blackmailed into sending sexual images which were used against them to generate more images.
According to the survey, Snapchat and Facebook are the most common sites where children have experienced grooming.
The survey also found that one of the other prevalent sites for children being asked to share sexual images is Twitch. This is a live streaming site which allows users to live stream themselves playing video games.
The findings of the study suggest live streaming is particularly risky for grooming as it allows live two-way communication.
Andy Burrows, the NSPCC Head of Child Safety Online Policy states the boundaries between live streaming video games and social networking are becoming increasingly blurred and this presents a particular risk of children being groomed.
The NSPCC has warned that paedophiles contact children on social media and then encourage them to move over to alternative forms of online contact such as encrypted messaging or other live streaming sites.
The NSPCC is calling on the government to create an independent regulator to monitor these types of offences and put in place mandatory child safety rules for social media networks.
The NSPCC also state that those social media sites need to recognise the abuse taking place on their platforms by using technology to identify suspicious behaviour and designing young people’s accounts with built in protections.
Written by Nicola Aspinwall, associate at BLM