Not-for-profit educational charity LGfL has called for technology companies to embrace calls for change and put the safety of children first in all developments in light of findings from its latest report. The fact that 1 in 10 children who video chat with strangers have been asked to change or undress on camera is just one of the startling statistics revealed in Hopes and Streams – the UK’s largest ever nationwide online safety survey of 40,000 children aged 7-16 published today by LGfL DigiSafe, the safeguarding arm of the London Grid for Learning which supports over 3000 schools in London and beyond in all areas of education technology.

In comparison to previous surveys, the 2018 results revealed a distinct shift in risks/dangers from strictly contact-based to content-based with:

Sexting and child sexual exploitation via live streaming flagged as a major issue by children and young people

A marked growth in mental health issues, especially self-harm and distress caused by sharing of sexual and violent videos

A greater prevalence of violent or sexual content – whether sending or receiving, volunteered or coerced

Conduct - the third C of the 3Cs of online safety (content, contact and conduct) - remaining as challenging as ever and shaping all aspects of online safety.

The report focused on six main topics including: video chatting and live streaming; experiences on apps, sites and games; contact risk – making friends and meeting people online; seeing, sending and receiving content; pornography; online friendships, bullying and mental health. 

The report also flagged the elements of the online world pupils enjoyed, including the opportunity to learn new skills, build relationships and broaden their horizons.

Please see below the key findings:

Video chatting and live streaming

Nearly one in ten children who video chat with people they haven’t met have been asked to change or undress on camera

Youngest pupils (aged 7 – 8) were just as likely to be asked to get undressed as students in the first four years of secondary school

One in eight pupils said they had video chatted with someone they had not met in person.

Experiences on apps, sites and games

3.5% said that the apps helped them feel good about their body

Over 50% of pupils wanted privacy settings to be made better, easier and clearer

18% of children said their online activities helped them make new friends

Nearly 1 in 3 pupils say it’s hard to stop using apps, sites and games

Contact risk – making friends and meeting people online LGfL DigiSafe Hopes and Streams report

One in three young people have made new friends online (who they did not know

Boys are more than twice as likely as girls to chat to people they have never met face-to-face or go on to talk to new gaming friends on other sites or messaging apps

Half of those who chat to people they met on games went on to talk to them on other platforms

One in ten 7-16 year olds have made friends with an adult online for the first time

Of those who met an online friend in person 81% took or told somebody else.

Seeing, sending and receiving content

22.4% of pupils had seen violent images/videos online

12.8% of these had received these from a young person and 6.2% from an adult

Boys were a quarter more likely than girls to see this material

41% of 15-16 year-olds have seen violent images or videos online

9% of those surveyed had received a naked or semi-naked image from another young person

15.1% of secondary students had received a sexual message; 5.4% from an adult

5.1% of secondary students said they had sent a sexual message themselves; 1.8% to an adult.

Pornography

14.5% of secondary pupils admitted to having seen pornography online

This began from 5.3% in the first year of secondary school, doubling to 10.8% of 12-13 year olds, 18.1% of 13-14 year olds, 24.2% of 14-15 year olds and 31.9% of 15-16 year olds.

Online friendships, bullying and mental health

1 in 4 pupils report being bullied online

1 in 13 pupils admitted to bullying others online

1 in 3 pupils has witnessed bullying online

Almost 1 in 6 pupils have seen something that encourages self-harm.

Commenting on the survey Mark Bentley, Online Safety and Safeguarding Manager at LGfL DigiSafe said:

“The danger of meeting strangers online is often treated as the main online safety concern. This report however, shows that today violent or sexual content has become far more prevalent. We are concerned by the mental health concerns raised by the survey, particularly regarding self-harm. It is however encouraging to see that so many pupils consider the internet a force for good. Comments on the things pupils love about their online lives included learning new skills, broadening their horizons and building strong relationships. Another huge positive is the fact that 73% of pupils said they trust parents on online safety with 71.2% of pupils who spoke to someone telling a parent or carer and 36.1% telling a teacher about negative experiences.”

John Jackson, CEO at LGfL concluded:

“LGfL’s ground breaking survey underlines our commitment to protecting children and equipping teachers with the knowledge and tools to help pupils in their care. The dangers of the internet are real and serious. However, so are the many opportunities – it’s important we prepare young people to navigate the worst and thrive on the best of the online world. It’s incredibly important that we all harness the findings from the survey to drive positive change and a much better understanding of how technology, particularly social media, is impacting children. It is encouraging to see government getting behind these calls for change with papers such as the Internet Safety Strategy. It’s crucial that technology companies embrace these policies and put safety first when it comes to new developments.”  

The full LGfL DigiSafe Hopes and Streams report on the 2018 Pupil Online-Safety Survey is available on the LGfL website.
To access a full range of supportive material on online safety and safeguarding including teaching and classroom resources please click here.
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