Better regulation is needed to reduce the potential harm that could be caused to children online, as self-regulation is not working, according to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).
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The charity campaigning group is calling on the UK government to implement several new measures to help crackdown suspicious grooming behaviour online that could be targeting vulnerable children.
The NSPCC would like to see more regulations on social media platforms and to use artificial intelligence to help find suspicious activity on websites. The children are looking for stricter enforcement of these regulations (for example, the introduction of hefty fines if these rules are not obeyed.
The NSPCC believes that the ability of social media networks to self-regulate and adequately protect children on their sites has failed.
For example, according to statistics provided after a Freedom of Information request to police forces in England and Wales, there were 4,373 offences of sexual communication with a minor recorded in the 12 months up to April 2019. This indicates a sharp rise compared to the previous year: in 2018, 3,217 offences were recorded.
Changes that the children’s charity would like to see to better protect children online include turning off friend suggestion algorithms for children and young people, as well as ensuring that their accounts have the highest privacy settings available.
This includes making sure that their contact details remain private and unsearchable, ensuring that any live streaming activity that is available is limited to being contacts only, as well as making sure go-locators are automatically switched off. The NSPCC is currently speaking to digital marketing, advertising agencies and AI companies to help tackle the issue.
An issue that has been raised by social media sites is the challenge of being able to truly verify the age of users online. Research conducted by the firm AgeChecked shows that over 59 percent of children have used a social media site by the time they have reached 10. This means that the majority of children are using fake details in order to register for a social media channel.
Unfortunately, this means that any protection that is put in place specifically for children is hindered, and would mean that children are vulnerable to predators online.