Children live-stream in far larger numbers than previously understood, a new survey has suggested, amid calls for UK government action to protect children from online abuse.
The report, published by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), found more than a quarter of children in Scotland surveyed have live-streamed and over one in six have video-chatted with someone they had never met.
Of the children who had video-chatted with someone they had not met, one in eight had been asked to get undressed, and one in 20 children who had live-streamed were asked to remove clothes.
The charity’s Wild West Web campaign has called for the creation of an independent regulator that will hold social networks to account and force them to introduce measures to make live-streaming and video-chatting safer.
Nationally, 29% of secondary school children had broadcast themselves online, suggesting the popularity of live-streaming may have surged among this age group since Ofcom’s estimate last year that one in ten 12 to 15-year-olds had live-streamed.
Live-streaming has become more accessible in recent years after mainstream sites such as Facebook and Instagram built live-streaming functions into their platforms.
Matt Forde, national head for NSPCC Scotland, said: “The popularity of live-streaming has led to increasing risks for children. Its immediacy means children are being pressured into going along with situations that make them feel uncomfortable.
“The lure of a big audience, or thinking that they are chatting to someone they can trust, piles on that pressure. What’s really disturbing is that groomers can then screenshot or record live-streamed abuse, and use it to blackmail the child or share it with others.
“We urge the public to sign our petition calling on the UK Government to introduce tough regulation of social networks to make sure measures are in place to protect children from abuse over live-streaming and video chat.”