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‘It is important to educate young people on the unique risks they face on their favourite live streaming platforms’

Marie Smith, head of education of the child protection command (CEOP) of the National Crime Agency, will be speaking at Digital Families 2018 on how to support young people to stay safer on popular live streaming platforms.

Live streaming is increasingly becoming one of the most popular online activities for children and young people. At CEOP we see first-hand how individuals who wish to harm children and young people online target them via popular sites and apps. The inherent features of live streaming platforms present unique risks, meaning our practice as educators must adapt to keep safety messaging updated and in line with their everyday experiences.

‘Live streaming is highly appealing to children and young people as it presents a chance for them to be a creator of content and be seen by a potentially huge audience.’

We’re aware that live streaming is highly appealing to children and young people as it presents a chance for them to be a creator or presenter of content and be seen by a potentially huge audience. Younger children in particular are progressing from putting on a song or dance performance for family in the living room, to using live streaming platforms that provide a ready-made audience.

They can also share their ‘streams’ and the audience can ‘like’ and comment on what is going on in the broadcast - often children can have hundreds or thousands of people watching at any one time.  Sharing something and having people show an interest in the present moment can feel like the ultimate confidence boost. Try to imagine this through the eyes of a child or young person you know.

‘The use of live streaming platforms by online sex offenders is increasing and offenders are capitalising on the immediacy of contact that live streaming offers.’

The praise and affirmation they receive on ‘streams’ can act as a hook to keep communication open, as well as an opportunity for those with bad intentions, to request young people to engage in sexual activity. The use of live streaming platforms by online sex offenders is increasing and offenders are capitalising on the immediacy of contact that live streaming offers, as well as their ability to target children and young people with comments in real time.

Once on these platforms, offenders often use tricks and dares, the offer of online gifts or threats to manipulate children and young people into performing sexual acts. Research by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) in May 2018 found that 98% of victims of sexual abuse on live streaming platforms were under 13 years old, 96% were girls, and 96% showed a child on their own, in a home environment.

There is an urgent need to support professionals, parents and carers to understand how children and young people use these platforms and the risks they can face.

‘At Digital Families 2018 we will explore the nuanced features of this recent online phenomenon, the type of tactics offenders use, as well as address the more deep-rooted issues that might make children and young people particularly vulnerable.’

Using the most up-to-date intelligence received into the CEOP, myself and members of the Thinkuknow Education team at Digital Families 2018, will explore the nuanced features of this recent online phenomenon, the type of tactics offenders use, as well as address the more deep-rooted issues that might make children and young people particularly vulnerable.

We will also explore education resources that can support you in educating children, young people and their parents or carers on the practical steps that can be taken to make live experiences safer for young people online. 

I look forward to seeing you there!

Find out more and book tickets here.