Last year 3,150 children, some as young as 9, contacted the NSPCC’s ChildLine service with concerns that they were being groomed online. Some of these had been approached through chatrooms linked to games they were playing.
Children find it easier to express themselves online and we know that 1 in 4 ten-year-olds has access to social networking sites even though they're technically under-age.
So far the industry has been left to police itself. But the NSPCC wants them to be far more pro-active and is calling for:
- an independent regulator to ensure proper safeguards are in place to protect children.
- an effective age verification system to prevent those under-18 accessing inappropriate sites.
- clear processes for reporting problems to law enforcement agencies.
- a consistent definition of child abuse on all major sites with clear reporting procedures and swift removal of unsuitable content.
- an independent arbitration system to deal with child protection reports.
"The internet offers a vast treasure trove of learning for children and the chance to engage with others who share common interests. While we don’t want to deter children from getting the most from social media and gaming sites everything is not always what it seems. "