Children are still finding it too easy to access potentially harmful content online, despite increased concerns and demands for improvement, a new study has warned.
The latest Net Aware guide, which is published by UK children’s charity the NSPCC, canvassed responses from some 1,725 school children, as well as 500 parents.
It aimed to examine 50 of the most popular social media sites to reveal the potential risk they posed to children in terms of exposing them to harmful content.
It found that half of the children surveyed had seen sexual, violent or other pieces of adult material on social media, with sites like ChatRoulette, Omegle and Tumblr rated to be particularly high risk for sexual content.
This finding was in direct contradiction with parents’ views, who largely rated such sites as low risk.
Such a discrepancy arguably stems from the fact that children were also found to be more likely than their parents to report inappropriate material on three quarters of the sites they visited.
There were some bright spots, with around half of the companies examined being found to have made improvements to privacy settings and reporting functions.
However, some 78% of young people admitted to joining social media sites before reaching the minimum age, in turn leaving them more vulnerable to noxious harmful content.
Peter Wanless, NSPCC CEO, said: “It's vital that parents sit down together with their children regularly to talk about which social media sites they are using, and how to get help if they need it.
"More than 60% of young people we asked said social media platforms need to do more to keep children safe.
"These companies need to take more responsibility for keeping children safe online. We think there should be minimum standards in place and a new regulator may be required if industry cannot regulate itself.”
The survey comes amid a fresh drive in the UK to protect children from harmful internet content. The UK government has even outlined ambitions to be the “safest place in the world” for children online.