Why We Must Petition For Safer Social Networks

An NSPCC survey of nearly 40,000 children revealed that, on average, one child in every classroom has received a naked or semi-naked image online from an adult. Here, Andy Burrows from the NSPCC Child Safety Online Team urges parents to petition for change.

Most young people will be logging on to the internet to explore an ever expanding world of news, views, and information, educating themselves in a way that previous generations could only dream about.

At the same time they are communicating with friends and family from different towns, cities and countries. As a parent what’s not to like about all of this?

Unfortunately, and on occasions, tragically, the online world our children inhabit can also be the source of great unhappiness and grave danger.

Bullying that used to be left at the school gates now seeps on to the social media networks they use, leaving the victim with no escape from the cruel words of their tormentors.

Of even greater concern is the reach and anonymity afforded by the internet is also being exploited by adults to target and prey upon children and teenagers.

A recent change in the law campaigned for by the NSPCC means it is now illegal for an adult to send sexual messages to a child, with UK police forces recording more than 3,000 offences on social media networks in 2016/17.

And there is more. An NSPCC survey of nearly 40,000 children revealed that, on average, one child in every classroom has received a naked or semi-naked image online from an adult, while the growing popularity of livestreaming and video messages apps is leaving young people vulnerable to being blackmailed into sending inappropriate pictures and films of themselves.

So the warning lights are flashing red and the time to act is undoubtedly now.

However, leaving child protection in the hands of the social media giants of Silicon Valley is no longer an option as they have consistently shown that keeping children safe is not a priority for them.

This is why we believe at the NSPCC that it is vital for the Government to intervene and create an independent regulator with the powers to investigate and fine social media networks that are being used as a gateway to child abuse.

These companies should be forced to take proactive steps to tackle grooming, and be much more transparent by publishing the scale of the risks on their sites.

To seize this opportunity for meaningful and lasting change we have launched #WildWestWeb, a national campaign to make social networks safe for our children. For it to make a difference we really need your support by signing our petition.

Every signature is crucial and will help us in our quest to make the online world a place that parents can let their children go to free of concern about what they are doing and who they are meeting.

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