Four out of five British children do not feel safe when using social media, according to a new survey.
Research conducted by the NSPCC has found that the lack of strict controls on social media platforms leaves young people vulnerable to bullying and “hurtful messages”. In a poll of 1,696 children, 80 per cent believed these sites should do more to protect them from harmful or inappropriate content.
The platforms identified as the most unsafe were question site ASKfm, online chat site Omegle and IMVU, where users can interact using 3D avatars. This led the NSPCC to advise parents to look beyond the “big name” social media apps and find ones they may not have heard of but which their children use.
A 16 year-old girl who took part in the survey believed that comments made on ASKfm “contributed to people self-harming or just feeling negative about themselves” as there are no controls on the site. Another girl claimed there were “people on [IMVU] who are very unstable and vulnerable who are taken advantage of”.
NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless said that while social media was “a great way for young people to stay in touch with their friends … our research clearly shows that children do not feel that they are shielded from upsetting, dangerous, and adult content”.
While he appreciated that parents can find it “nearly impossible to keep up with all of the constantly changing sites, games, and apps that young people use”, he insisted it was “vital parents know about their child’s online world”.
In a 2015 survey of almost 1,000 UK parents, as many as 54 per cent admitted they would have no idea if their child was a victim of online bullying or not. More than half also said they would not know how to respond even if they found out that was the case.