Self-Produced Child Pornography and the Risks of Live Streaming
The Rise of Child Pornography Online
In recent years, AFP investigators have reported a surge in young children live-streaming and recording explicit videos and sharing sexualised images of themselves online, stating that there are over 150 million online images and videos depicting child pornography. In some instances, children are willingly sharing these images and videos with friends on chat sites and social media, while in other cases, sex offenders are reaching out to children online. Using live-streaming and chatting platforms, online predators are coercing children into producing explicit material which is then secretly captured and shared in online forums.
The increasing danger of live-streaming and live-chat apps is something that parents can no longer afford to ignore. The popularity of these apps has seen rapid growth as developers and users want easier and faster communication. While this is of great benefit to those trying to reach loved ones across the globe, these developments directly put young people at risk of harm.
Where is this Happening?
Apps like Bigo Live, Twitch, Live.ly, and even live-streaming functions in social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter open virtual doors for strangers to engage with children. Download any of these apps, and you will find children broadcasting what they are doing in their bedrooms; singing along to their favourite song in their school uniforms or chatting with who they think is just another kid on the other side of the screen. These children have no awareness of the consequences of their actions and can be easily convinced to share their different social media accounts or even their school and home address.
As well as purpose-built streaming and chat apps, many games and apps have chat functions within them that can be used to immediately contact other players. While these games are specifically designed for children, there is no way to accuratelya verify the age of a user. Many parents have found their children being approached online by older strangers posing as young players.
What Can Parents Do?
Parents need to be aware of these risks and the steps they can take to minimise them. Early intervention is key; many parents may think their child is too young to be in danger of being exploited, so feel conversations around online safety are unnecessary. But while many sites and apps have a recommended age limit of 13+ years, in 2016 the BBC reported that 78% of children under 13 in the UK were signed up to at least one social media network, and the AFP is reporting cases of children as young as 4 being exploited through child pornography.
The NSPCC in the UK recommends having regular, open conversations with children about their online lives at least once every two weeks. When discussing these apps with your children, make sure they are exploring all the possible privacy and security settings. Wherever possible, make sure they set their accounts to private. Children should be aware of “stranger danger” online as well as in the real world.
The average age that a child will first encounter pornography online is 11, so it is essential they understand the law. Young people need to know that it is illegal to share images of minors who are naked or partially naked. Sexting comes under this law, even if a minor is sending a photo of themselves. Creating the image or storing it on your phone or computer is illegal under child pornography laws.