1 in 4 young people have been contacted over social media by an adult they don’t know

Children under 13 targeted by adults they don’t know on social media, new research reveals.

Teenagers sat at a bus stop

The research, carried out in partnership with O2, surveyed 2,059 children and 2,049 parents for Net Aware, the essential guide to the top social networks used by children and young people. It asked children and parents about violent, bullying or adult content on social networking sites and games used by children and young people.

The research revealed:

  • 1 in 4 young people have been contacted over social media by an adult they didn’t know, a third of which were children under 13
  • Facebook, YouTube and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas were the only sites to be ranked high risk for all three of the categories violent, bullying and adult content
  • Twitter and Reddit also ranked highly for inappropriate content
  • the top 15 risky platforms included lesser known sites, such as Sarahah, Episode: Choose Your Story, Omegle, ROBLOX and Yubo (formerly called Yellow)
  • 2 in 3 of young people know how to perform safety functions, including reporting, blocking users, and changing privacy and location settings.

A 16-year-old girl, who reviewed YouTube, said:

“When you’re watching a video of something like a makeup artist, a video can be at the side of something completely different that could be sexual/hurtful or anything else. It’s easy to get yourself into a bad video.”

A 13-year-old girl, who reviewed Facebook, said:

“I don’t like that just random people can send you a friend request.”

Wild West Web: our new campaign

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Matt Hancock, has heralded the end of the Wild West Web, where social media giants go unchecked. We’re urging him to follow through by bringing in a regulator to force social networks to keep children safe.

As part of our #WildWestWeb campaign we’re calling for Mr Hancock to bring in:

1. an independent regulator for social networks with fining powers

2. a mandatory code which introduces Safe Accounts for children; grooming alerts using algorithms; and fast-tracking of reports to moderators which relate to child safety

3. mandatory transparency reports forcing social networks to disclose how many safety reports they get, and how they deal with those reports.

Support our campaign

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Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, said:

“Worryingly we are hearing from children as young as 13 who have been contacted by adults they don’t know on social media, which can be extremely upsetting.”

“In addition our research shows children are being exposed to inappropriate and harmful content across a range of social networking sites and games, from the big names to those perhaps lesser known to parents.

“That’s why it’s so important for parents to download the Net Aware app so they can keep up to speed with new sites, apps and games as they appear and the risks they present. Net Aware does all the work, updating parents with the latest reviews, news and risks about sites their children are using and providing tips and advice to keep them safe online.”