Last year we blogged about a campaign by the NCA and National Police Chiefs Council to help parents protect their children against this threat. We encouraged parents and carers to talk to their children about behaviours that could put them at risk when using live streaming platforms.
Unfortunately this risk has not decreased. A recent NSPCC survey receiving 40,000 responses in the UK from children aged 7-16 found that:
The NSPCC are understandably concerned. As are we.
Most, of not all of the popular social media platforms now offer live streaming features. Live streaming is the broadcast of real-time live video content. Live streaming has become very popular over all social media platforms but unlike pre-recorded video content in which you can review and edit it – live streaming is live. No second takes. Users can live stream via a smartphone, tablet, laptop or computer.
One of the big attractions to live streaming is that it’s ‘in the moment’ activity. When taking part in a live stream or broadcast it’s very easy to do things spontaneously, never thinking about the consequences.
Livestreaming can in some cases provide users with a false sense of security – as the activity is taking place behind the screen, users can feel somewhat protected, which can result in s engaging in behaviour they would not do otherwise offline.
Adults attempting to coerce children online can use live streaming platforms to deploy tactics such as trickery and flattery – in a bid to get children to engage in behaviour they would not normally do. They can use sophisticated manipulative techniques, which will seem innocent to children initially to build a relationship with the intention of tricking the child into taking off their clothes.
A trend on live streaming platforms and apps which is used as a tool by these adults is the abundance of affirmation features – lots of engagement likes, hearts, smiley faces and comments can make children feel good and more inclined to quickly establish relationships which may be harmful. These features are attractive to children seeking friendship and affection and can be a factor in quickly lowering the child’s perception of risk, ie ‘this person is so nice, they like all my stuff’ and can result in the child engaging in risk taking behaviour to increase their popularity on these, sometimes very competitive streams.
Awareness is key. Getting involved in helping children and young people develop the skills to navigate the online world and to critically assess risk online is paramount.
Show interest. What parent hasn’t been asked to watch their childs’ Fortnite escapades? Make the time for a few minutes now and again. They’ll love it that you’re ‘interested’ and it keeps you in the loop. Staying up to date isn’t as hard as it sounds. Read our blogs and watch the videos. They’re condensed, jargon-free, practical and most importantly – SHORT – for all you busy parents. There’s also a wealth of other great support out there online.
You don’t need to be an expert, just get more informed. That information may just be enough to protect your child from someone who does not have their best interests at heart.
Remember there are a lot of adults and older teenagers online and not everyone is who they say they are. So you need to know where your kids are when they’re online and who they’re talking to. Many children are spending more time online than they are outside. Rightly or wrongly it’s happening and most parents just want a balance. This is where they socialize. They need to know what is acceptable and what isn’t, respect boundaries set by you and most importantly know they can come to you when they experience something that upsets them or is a risk. Livestreaming is a fun easy way for children to keep in touch with friends and families and share moments with them. It’s not going away.
If your child is using an app with a live streaming feature, sit down, look at the privacy settings together and enable them. That’s a good start. Sites such as Yubo are being proactive and have more advanced protection features than some other sites. They’ve introduced nudity detecting software and can act on this relatively quickly. Many platforms are now working on features which allow them to ‘proactively detect grooming’. Others operate with the most basic safety mechanisms.
As they grow older it’s key that they have an online/offline life balance. Children and teenagers need to develop functional and productive digital skills and develop critical thinking online to protect themselves and navigate the digital world safely and constructively. Parents may not equip their children with technical knowledge these days but we are responsible for applying hard learnt wisdom, knowledge and understanding to life experiences and helping children and young people manage risk and learn who they can trust offline and online.