The NSPCC has released figures which suggest that almost one in five children who use social networking sites suffered a negative experience last year. The report also says that a large number of children who use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are below the minimum age of 13.
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According to a report on the BBC's news website this morning, the children's charity has commissioned the UK-wide survey of of 1,024 11 to 16-year-olds because of increased concern about the kind of threats children are exposed to online. It closely follows the tragic case of 14 year-old Hannah Smith, who committed suicide after being 'trolled' on Ask.fm. The full report is due to be published in November.
The most common negative experiences, it says, are bullying and trolling. Unwanted sexual messages, cyberstalking and being put under pressure over personal appearance are also commonplace. The posts are often anonymous or use a false name.
The NSPCC's safer technology expert Claire Lilley said the research revealed a "worrying landscape" and the charity's forthcoming report would focus on the issues of "trolling" and cyber-bullying and the impact they have on young children. Speaking to the BBC, she said: "It's unbearable to think any young person should feel there is no other option but to end their life because of bullying on social networking sites. This is something that must be tackled before it gets out of hand."
She continued: "We must ensure young people have the confidence to speak out against this abuse, so that they don't feel isolated and without anywhere to turn."