The UK’s National Crime Agency has warned that live streaming websites pose an “urgent threat” as abusers use them to prey on young children.
BBC News reports that the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has issued a warning stating that children must be educated on the issue of live streaming websites as they pose a significant risk to the young. Predators utilizing the streaming platforms have learned how children interact on the internet and are “using this knowledge to abuse them,” according to the NCA. In just the space of a week, authorities identified 345 children at risk of being targeted and arrested 192 people, 30 percent of which were involved in streaming websites, blackmail and child grooming.
YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat all have some form of live video streaming functionality while sites such as Twitter’s Periscope, Omegle, Liveme and Lively are all specifically designed around live streaming. Omegle is even based on the idea of interacting with random strangers via text or video. Police have said that child predators thrive on the immediate connection that these platforms provide, putting them face to face with a child in a matter of minutes. They then use tricks and dares to manipulate young children into exposing themselves on camera.
“We need parents and carers to talk to their children about healthy relationships and staying safe online,” said National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Child Protection Chief Constable Simon Bailey, “We need internet companies to help us stop access to sexual abuse images and videos and prevent abuse happening on their platforms.”
According to an NCA survey, 84 percent of the 927 parents surveyed said that they were aware of the threats children face on the internet but more than 30 percent said that they had not spoken to their own children about the dangers of the internet. Approximately 58 percent admitted that they were not sure if they had adequate online security measures put in place.
The NCA has produced a short animation, featuring a fictional character named Sam, in an attempt to educate children about the dangers of the internet. The video was released alongside the hashtag #WhoIsSam and aims to explain how abusers develop relationships with their victims. Zoe Hilton, from the NCA, said in a statement, “Offenders will take advantage of the fact that young peoples’ inhibitions are lower online so we’re also encouraging parents to talk to their children about what a healthy relationship looks like and how to spot when someone might not be who they say they are.”
Hilton continued, “As well as ensuring that privacy settings are in place on the sites and apps they use, it’s so important that we have regular and open conversations with our children about being safe online and encouraging them to speak up if something is worrying them or doesn’t feel right.”
A report called Digital Childhood has been released which provides guidelines and tips for children of various age groups interacting with the internet. The guide recommends that children under the age of five should be supervised on the internet at all times and that those aged between 11 and 12 should be discouraged from signing up to social media websites until they’re 13 or older.