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by Sofia Villegas
19 April 2024
Ofcom report reveals worrying trends in children’s exposure to online content

Children internet exposure rises | Alamy

Ofcom report reveals worrying trends in children’s exposure to online content

An Ofcom report has revealed that more children are going online unsupervised as those playing violent online games reaches a record high.

Ofcom’s annual study of children’s relationship with the media and online world has revealed around a quarter of five to seven olds own a smartphone, while more than three-quarters use a tablet.

Overall, the use of social media by this age group has increased by eight per cent, with WhatsApp seeing the biggest annual growth.

Online gaming has also had an annual increase of seven per cent, with those playing shooting games reaching a record-high following a 15 per rise this past year.

Almost a third of parents of five-to-seven-year-olds said their child uses social media independently, with three in ten admitting they are likely to allow their kid to have a social media profile before they reach the minimum age required. Almost half (48 per cent) of five to seven-year-olds have personal profiles on YouTube or YouTube Kids.

However, a majority of parents – 76 per cent – of those aged five to seven said they have discussed how to stay safe online with their children.

The report also revealed a gap in communication between parents and older children – 8 to 17 years old – on their exposure to harmful content. A third of this age group said they had seen harmful content yet over the last year only two in ten parents said their child had told them about seeing scary or upsetting content online.

Girls within this age group were also more likely to experience hurtful interactions online compared to boys.

Also, more than nine in ten children aged eight to 17 also said they had at least one lesson on online safety at school, yet only three in ten said they had regular online safety lessons.

The findings come as Ofcom announces an additional area of focus for child safety, building on the measures set out in their draft illegal harms code of practice.

The regulatory authority also plans to conduct a consultation later this year on how automated tools, including artificial intelligence, can help detect illegal content and content harmful to children.

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