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Parents must act to cut online risks to children

All parents know that keeping their children safe online can be a challenging task. It's never more important than in the school holidays, when children have more free time to explore the online world.

Already this summer has seen the arrival of the new Snap Map function on Snapchat. At the NSPCC, we are concerned that, via this update, Snapchat is encouraging under-18s to broadcast their location on the app, where it can potentially be accessed by everyone in their contact lists. With public accounts, this will include those who are not known to the user.

We believe it is vital that children are automatically offered safer accounts on social media to protect them from unnecessary risks.

Children are increasingly contacting our Childline service telling us that they are being targeted online. Last year alone (2015/16) the NSPCC-run helpline counselled 164 children from Northern Ireland about online sexual abuse - including sexting, being made to perform sex acts on webcam and viewing distressing sexually explicit content.

A survey carried out for the NSPCC found that 59% of adults in Northern Ireland did not know that social media sites like Facebook require users to be aged 13 or over. Shockingly, more than one-in-five (22%) thought there were no age requirements at all.

These findings show it is more important than ever for parents to know what their children are doing online and that parents educate themselves about the world their children are inhabiting.

The earlier parents start to talk to their children, the better. A series of simple conversations can be all it takes to make a huge difference in keeping their child safe when exploring the online world.

NEIL ANDERSON

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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