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Survey reveals risk of child abuse in live video chats

boy using laptop

The NSPCC is calling on the government to regulate livestreaming and video chat social networks used by children following survey results showing that more than one in 10 children who have video chatted have been asked to get undressed.

A rapid increase in the use of livestreaming (where the user can broadcast videos in real time and those watching can leave comments and questions) and video chat (where the user has live face-to-face conversations through a webcam with one or more people) platforms is leaving children and young people vulnerable to grooming and sexual abuse, the NSPCC warns. The charity is campaigning for stricter regulations surrounding child safety online.

A survey of 40,000 children aged seven to 16 has shown that almost a quarter have livestreamed and almost one in eight has video-chatted with someone they've never met in person. More than one in 10 children who had video-chatted had been asked to get undressed. Of those who had livestreamed, over one in 20 was asked to undress.

The lack of restrictions on livestreaming and video chat platforms allows groomers to record the abuse and use it to blackmail victims.

One girl, aged 10-11, told the NSPCC: “My friend was doing a live stream and an adult man was asking for her to video request him, so she did and he showed his private parts.”

Another girl, aged 11-12, said that, while on video chat, “this man was pulling, touching and showing his privates”.

The NSPCC's Wild West Web campaign is calling on Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright to create an independent regulator to force social media platforms into implementing child safety rules for social networks and ensure safe accounts for children.

The charity said the rise was likely to be down to the introduction of livestreaming capabilities on some of the biggest social media platforms.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said the popularity of livestreaming meant children were “being pressured into going along with situations that make them feel uncomfortable.”

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has warned he would “not be afraid to take action” against tech companies if they did not help to tackle child sexual abuse online.