One child per classroom in the UK has received nude or semi-nude image from an adult, an NSPCC survey has found. One in 50 schoolchildren has sent a nude or semi-nude image to an adult, according to the large-scale survey of children’s experiences online.
Children were asked whether an adult had ever sent or shown them a naked or semi-naked picture or video on an app, website or game. One girl aged 10 said: “A complete stranger asked me to take my clothes off and send him a picture. When I deleted the game, I went on another site and the same person asked me to have sex with him, I told him to ‘back off’ and then deleted that game. I have seen this person on many sites that I play, and I decided to just block him.”
The NSPCC’s #WildWestWeb campaign is now calling on Government to create an independent regulator for social networks, to force platforms to proactively detect groomers using their sites.
In the survey of nearly 40,000 children, the NSPCC asked young people aged seven to 16 about the risks they face when using the internet.
The snapshot of the survey findings, Children Sending and Receiving Images, highlights the dangers children are exposed to. At secondary school even more children reported being targeted by adults sending or showing them nude or semi-nude images, with one in 20 children aged 12-16 saying they had received such an image.
Children said the problem was not limited to strangers contacting them, and some said they had been sent images by adults that they know. A boy aged 14-15, said: “My coach sent me a video of Santa stripping naked.”
“Grooming can no longer be shrugged off as secondary to other online crimes. It is happening now, it is happening to very young children, it is happening so frequently that it’s becoming normalised."”
Others reported that the exchange of sexual images, often known as sexting, is becoming normalised. One pupil aged 12-13, said: “A girl from my primary [was] sending half naked pictures because it’s what everyone does.”
Responding to the shocking survey findings, Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive said: “Grooming can no longer be shrugged off as secondary to other online crimes. It is happening now, it is happening to very young children, it is happening so frequently that it’s becoming normalised, and it is not only coming from adult strangers, but also from known adults. Social networks have become a gateway for child abuse.
“The NSPCC has launched a petition calling on Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright and Home Secretary Sajid Javid to put an end to the Wild West Web. We need tough regulation of social networks to make sure there are fundamental protections for children in place whatever sites they’re using.”
The petition can be found here.
What should parents do?
The results of this survey may be disturbing for parents. The best thing mums and dads can do is to try and always have an honest and open dialogue with their children about what they do online, on apps, games and websites.
Peter Coe, an academic and lecturer in Law at Aston University, previously told HuffPost UK, about the “green cross code” he developed as a way for parents and children to think about how they engage online. He used the acronym ‘PAUSE’ for parents to teach their kids.
P: Remember that everything you put online has the potential to be seen by anybody and everybody and that it can be permanent.
A: Before posting, tweeting, sharing, texting or uploading think about your audience and how it could affect them and/or their opinion of you and others, now and later on.
U: If you are still unsure ask for a second opinion from somebody you trust. Equally, if you receive a text, tweet, message or picture that you are unsure about tell somebody you trust.
S: Stop and think what impact your online activity may have on your privacy or reputation, or the privacy or reputation of others.
E: If you are uncomfortable with anything that’s been tweeted, posted, shared or uploaded end your involvement immediately and tell somebody you trust.
For further information and support:
Childnet: E-safety advice for parents and carers with young children.
NSPCC: Online safety advice and resources for parents available.
UK Safer Internet Centre: Online safety tips, advice and resources to help children and young people stay safe online.