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BCS: Teens want more online safety from social media giants

22 February 2018

  • New survey of six and a half thousand young people reveals nearly half don’t think social media companies consider their safety when developing new products

  • Nearly two-thirds calling on social media firms to publish how much bullying actually takes place on their sites

  • Research from BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, also found nearly two-thirds of children and teenagers think social media giants should delete abusive messages BEFORE a complaint is made


A new survey of six thousand and a half children and teenagers in England has revealed how little confidence they have in social media giants in ensuring that they’re protected from abusive behaviour online. Nearly half of those questioned (42% of under 13’s, 41% of 13-18 year olds) said tech companies don’t think about the online safety of people their age when they’re making websites or apps, and there’s too much secrecy surrounding levels of bullying already taking place. Two-thirds of young people (73% of under 13’s, 62% of 13-18 year olds) think it would be helpful to see how much bullying happens on social media websites like Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram.


The research also highlighted that young people want social media companies to take a different approach to combatting abuse and bullying online. Nearly two-thirds (66% of under 13’s, 63% of 13-18 year olds) thought tech firms should delete abusive messages BEFORE a complaint is made, and three-quarters (81% of under 13’s and 69% of 13-18 year olds) said they go a step further by automatically stopping rude or abusive posts from showing up in the first place.


Commenting on the survey, David Evans, Director of Policy at BCS said: “Children do not view the online and offline world as separate; they have grown up with technology surrounding them, and view socialising digitally and face-to-face as two sides of the same coin. With that in mind, we think it is not only incumbent on, but also good business practice, for tech companies to design their social media platforms with young people in mind.


Clearly, the results of our survey, possibly the largest survey of its type to get the actual views of young people and their use of social media sites, should act as a wake-up call for anyone designing or running digital systems that children may use; crucially, that includes services targeted mainly at adults that we all know, will be used by children.


It shows clearly where young people want help and guidance, and we think it is ultimately in their long-term financial interests to listen to what they’re being told. Today’s young people are tomorrow’s adults, and as they grow-up, they will only want to use that technology that they can ultimately trust.


Our survey shows that young people have strong concerns and opinions about what social media platforms should be doing to make it a safe and rewarding experience for them. The results indicate that digital professionals and the organisations they work for, need to sit up and take notice of what young people are saying and act upon it to keep them safe online.”


BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, sent their survey to teachers in more than 1,700 primary and secondary schools in England between 27 November 2017 and 1st January 2018, and asked them to get their pupils to take part in the research. Six and half thousand young people aged between 7 and 18 agreed to be part of the research, and they appear eager to have more information on how to stay safe online. Two-thirds of under 12’s (67%) and nearly half of over 13’s (46%) would welcome increased online education in schools.


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