Parents should take “tough love” approach to children’s apps

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Parents should not shy away from a killjoy approach to popular apps when protecting their kids from online sexual predators.

That’s the advice from online security expert Robert O’Brien, CEO of global cyber security company MetaCompliance.

He has urged parents to remove apps that fall short in child protection safeguards from all of their children’s devices.

He made the comments after an investigation into two of the world’s most popular teen social media sites revealed that children are being exposed to requests to remove clothes and engage in sexual acts.

“Removing apps from your children’s devices might be viewed as taking tough love to the extreme but it could be the difference in keeping sexual predators out of your child’s bedroom,” he said.

“The latest reports of disturbing and disgusting behaviour by predators towards children as young as nine on the music.ly and live.ly apps don’t come as surprise.

“Websites such as these can be breeding grounds for paedophiles and if the highest standards of mediation and moderation are not adopted, then it’s simply not worth the risk of allowing children to access them.

“Protection against this very real cyber threat comes down to parental control. Parents would not allow children to mingle where predators have free reign in the real world so why would they do so in the virtual world.

“From the evidence produced by Channel 4, it appears that efforts to protect young users of music.ly and live.ly fall very far short of what is needed. The company says it takes the safety of users ‘very seriously’ but the fact that no action was taken to remove or moderate the abusive behaviour reported calls that assertion into very serious question.

“Even if reactive moderation is taking place when abuse is reported online, it does not go far enough to safeguard our children. Young children cannot always be expected to recognise abuse let alone report it.

“Online sites targeting children and young teenagers must be subject to high level levels of oversight which identifies safety issues quickly and deals with them immediately. Otherwise the apps must go straight to the trash. It may seem a killjoy approach but this cyber threat impacts our children’s safety. That has to be a priority.”