This is the first week of school holidays for most children across the UK.  New research, commissioned by Zurich Insurance and Ineqe the online child protection experts, shows that children as young as seven are now spending almost three hours a week on average broadcasting live videos of themselves.  Instances of livestreaming amongst children increase by 17% once schools close and children have even more spare time. 

Tilden Watson, Head of Education at Zurich Municipal and Jim Gamble, online safeguarding expert and the force behind the Safer Schools are available for interview on this issue and I’ve also included some quotes and additional research highlights below in case this is of interest.

  • Two fifths (40%) of children livestream to an audience of strangers. The increase in this trend can be attributed to the pressure of performing live on livestreaming apps such as Instagram Live, Facebook Live, HouseParty, YouTube and Twitch to an anonymous audience. 
  • On average children livestream to an audience three times a week. One in five (21%) of these admit they chat to strangers online – equating to 680,000 children
  • Children as young as seven are now spending almost three hours a week on average broadcasting live videos of themselves
  • A tenth of livestreamers switch off parental controls. Alarmingly, a further tenth claim to have met offline with strangers who have contacted them whilst livestreaming
  • Almost three out of four (73%) children have a camera enabled device in their bedroom which could pose a serious risk

Tilden Watson, Head of Education at Zurich Municipal said: “School holidays represent a challenging time for parents as they struggle to balance work and childcare duties on top of the inevitable home work. It’s to be expected that children will probably spend a lot more time on devices.  That’s why it’s crucial to sit down together and chat through the risks. We know around a tenth of children normally chat to strangers online but this trend doubles amongst livestreamers. Setting up parental controls on devices is crucial – now more than ever. Talking about the dangers of inviting strangers into your bedroom, albeit virtually, is so important from a young age.”

Jim Gamble, online safeguarding expert and the force behind the Safer Schools app said: “Whilst everyone is experiencing various degrees of lock down during the school holidays there may be a tendency to think that our children are somehow safer, simply because we know exactly where they are. However, the truth is they might not be.  They may be tempted to join groups, share intimate images and participate in livestreaming activity as they attempt to build their own online audience. It is important not to scaremonger or create the impression there is a predator waiting in every virtual space, but the current reality is unprecedented. We can’t ignore the fact that sex offenders are also sitting at home and most will access the internet. Only by educating and empowering young people, can we begin to protect them from harm. In order to do that we need to practice what we preach and educate ourselves.”

Top tips for parents

  1. Make your home safer – ensure you are using the best possible settings provided by your Internet service provider. You can access these by searching for them by name and adding the phrase, safety settings e.g. BT safety settings
  2. Make sure all the devices you use have the most appropriate safety settings. Visit https://oursafetycentre.co.uk/ to check. 
  3. Talk: Talking is the most important tool in a parent or carers child protection tool kit.

Ensure your child knows they can always talk to you. Let them know we all make mistakes and that whatever happens, you will always be there for them. In fact, reinforce that if they feel they can’t speak to anyone else, they can always talk to childline (they can do this online).

  1. Before talking to them about any concerns you have about social media, apps or live streaming in general – do your homework. Research the issue yourself so you have at least a basic knowledge.
  2. Don’t start by asking ‘have you tried this’ but rather ‘have you heard about this’ and allow them to show off their knowledge. Use this engagement to have a conversation about staying safe and work together to apply safety settings. This is also a good opportunity to agree on boundaries e.g. no devices in bedrooms.
  3. Parents and Carers should report any concerns of grooming, sexual abuse and or sextortion to the local police or CEOP