50% of children admit to seeing sexual and violent material online

Net Aware survey reveals online safety risks to school children

Findings revealed in the latest update to our Net Aware guide show how easy it is for school children to access dangerous and harmful material online - despite repeated calls for improvements in online safety.

Of the 1,725 school children1 who took part in the survey, we found that:

    • 50% have seen sexual, violent and other adult material on social media sites, apps and games
    • 78% of children reported that they had joined social media sites before reaching the specified minimum age

Our Net Aware guide - now available as a free mobile app for iOS and Android - is the UK's only parents' guide to 50 of the most popular social media sites, apps, and games that young people use.

Information in the guide is based on reviews from more than 500 parents, who make up our 'Parent Advisory Board', and 1,725 school children.

The research revealed young people were more likely than parents to report seeing harmful content on three quarters of the sites they looked at.

Top five 5 sites where young people reported seeing inappropriate content:

    • Sickipedia (100% of children surveyed)
    • Chatroulette (92%)
    • Omegle (89%)
    • Ask.fm (88%)
    • Yik Yak (74%).

While young people rated Chatroulette, Omegle and Tumblr as high risk for sexual content, parents rated them as low risk - highlighting the need for parents to find out more about these sites.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC CEO, said:
"Our Net Aware research has shown that children are far more likely than parents to report seeing sexual, violent, or other adult content on social media. It's vital that parents sit down together with their children regularly to talk about which social media sites they are using, and how to get help if they need it.


"More than 60% of young people we asked said social media platforms need to do more to keep children safe. These companies need to take more responsibility for keeping children safe online. We think there should be minimum standards in place and a new regulator may be required if industry can not regulate itself.

"Thankfully, it's not all bad news. Around half of the sites in Net Aware have made improvements to their privacy settings and reporting functions - a trend I hope will continue. The NSPCC will continue to campaign for a safer internet, provide support for children through ChildLine, and advise parents through our partnership with O2."

Six new sites have now been added to the Net Aware guide: Dubsmash, Google Hangouts, Steam, Simpsons Tapped Out, YouNow and Roblox2.

Nina Bibby, Marketing and Consumer Director at O2, said:
"As a parent, it can be difficult to keep up with the many different websites, apps and games our tech-savvy children know so intimately.

"It's vital that parents actively participate in their children's digital life to help them stay safe online.

"At O2, we believe we have an important role to play in giving both parents and children the necessary digital skills to safely make the most of technology.

"That's why the latest Net Aware guide and our partnership with the NSPCC is all about giving parents the support, advice and information they need to have the right kind of conversations about the online world."


  1. 1. We worked with O2 to recruit parents of 8 to 14 year olds to review social networks that children use. Over 500 parents joined the O2/NSPCC 'Parent Advisory Board'. Each parent was asked to review up to 3 social networks, using a questionnaire developed by us. We also consulted 1,725 children and young people, aged 11 to 18, at 12 schools across the UK. This work was done by our Participation Unit which ensures the voices of children are heard in everything we do.

  2. 2. Sites and apps currently listed on Net Aware:
    BBM, AskFm, Bin Weevils, Boom Beach, Call of Duty, Chatroulette, Clash of Clans, Club Penguin, Deviant Art, Dubsmash, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, FMyLife, Google Hangouts, Google Plus, Habbo Hotel, Instagram, KIK, Meet Me, MeowChat, Minecraft, Miniclip, Monopoly, Moshi Monsters, MovieStar Planet, Omegle, OoVoo, Pinterest, Popjam, ROBLOX, Sickipedia, Simcity Buildit, Skype, Snapchat, Soundcloud, Steam, Tango, Tapped Out, Tinder, Tumblr, Twitch, Twitter, Viber, Vine, WeHeartIt, Whatsapp, Yahoo Messenger, Yik Yak, YouNow, Youtube.