A problem hiding in plain sight?
Our latest research – "A Problem Hiding in Plain Sight?" – uncovers the number of children and young people who fall victim to financial harm online.
It reveals that 96% of young people in the UK aged 13-18 have made an online purchase, and collectively spend an estimated £50m+ per week online.
Of those young people surveyed who could estimate how much they spend online in a typical week, 42% had subscribed to something accidentally, been scammed, or lost money in some other way.
The research also revealed that three-quarters (76%) of 13-18 year-olds think young people their age end up doing something that breaks the law online – such as accessing over-18 sites, streaming private movies, or stealing from parents.
"Children losing money online has become commonplace"
The report was produced as part of the Child Financial Harms project – funded by Nominet.
We worked with Ipsos, who interviewed 1,020 children in the UK aged between 13 and 18 during September 2023, as well as conducting focus groups with 30 children at three schools.
Vicki Shotbolt, founder and CEO of Parent Zone said:
"This fascinating report shows that for children, purchasing online is absolutely normal. Sadly, losing money has also become commonplace through scams and financial exploitation.
"However, compared to other online harms, those involving money have generally received scant attention, likely because children are not seen as having financial agency.
"Our report not only challenges this preconception with data and comments from young people but also calls out the limited incentives for most platforms and services to protect them.
"Shockingly, the report also relays the illegal activity that young people are drawn into online. We hope these insights will lead in due course to better ideas about how to prevent online financial harm to children and ensure that there is better support for those who are affected."
Of the 96% of 13-18 year-olds who have made purchases online, 68% were unaided when doing so. This equates to 3.1-3.5 million children in the UK who can potentially be at risk of scams and fraud.
There remains an assumption that older people are more likely to be the victim of online scams. However, the Local Government Association reports over 50% of scams experienced in the UK are by those aged 16-34.
The report concludes by questioning how the new legislation – including the Online Safety Act and the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill – will work together to acknowledge the financial risks and harms towards children.
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