Kids as young as eight falling victim to online predators

Barnardo’s, a major children’s charity in the UK, has found that children as young as eight are being sexually exploited online via social media. In prior years, the youngest respondents to the Barnardo’s survey were 10, suggesting an unfortunate downward trend in progress.

The newest draw for young children, and sadly those who prey on them, is live streaming. Barnardo’s says that video streaming apps like TikTok, as well as streaming within already-popular apps like Instagram, are both extremely popular and very hard to moderate. When you add in the real-time comments posted directly to the person streaming, unfortunately you have an environment that’s ripe for exploitation.

Just last year, Barnardo’s ran a survey via YouGov in the UK and found 57% of 12-year-olds surveyed and 28% of 10-year-olds had live-streamed content on apps that are supposed to be used only by over-13s. In addition, about a quarter of the 10 to 16-year-olds surveyed said they regretted something they had posted online via live streaming.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan:

It’s vital that parents get to know and understand the technology their children are using and make sure they have appropriate security settings in place. They should also talk to their children about sex and relationships and the possible risks and dangers online so children feel able to confide in them if something doesn’t feel right.

Contrary to some popular opinion on the subject, Barnardo’s says that based on the children they have helped, there’s no typical profile of a child who tends to fall victim to sexual exploitation online. The stereotype of the child from a troubled home being a ripe target for exploitation online doesn’t appear to hold true.

Any child can become a victim of sexual exploitation. All children are vulnerable and there is no stereotypical ‘at risk’ profile for victims of any type of sexual abuse or exploitation.