TikTok is the app allowing users to easily create, edit and share video with friends. And with 500 million regular users, TikTok ranks as one of the most popular social media apps around. But with half of the TikTok’s users aged between 13-24, there is growing concern youngsters are increasingly being targeted by sexual predators.
TikTok recently surged past both Snapchat and Twitter last year.
But the thousands of UK youngsters who use the site to create and rate video clips are now the subject of safety concerns.
Children’s charity Barnardo’s has warned how children as young as eight risk being sexually exploited on TikTok and other similar sites
Sex pests reportedly use TikTok’s comments function to encourage children to engage in sexual activity online, the charity said.
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Barnardo’s has today launched an urgent appeal to raise revenue for its sexual exploitation services.
Javed Khan, chief executive of Barnardo’s, said: “Without the right security settings, children broadcasting live video of themselves over the internet could be targeted by abusers in their bedrooms.
Mr Khan, who called for a legal duty of care to prevent online abuse, explained how many minors are vulnerable and there is no stereotypical “at risk” profile for victims of any kind of sexual exploitation.
A Government spokesperson said: “We will be writing to these companies, asking what measures they have in place to keep children safe from harm, including verifying their age.
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“If we’re not satisfied with their response, we reserve the right to take further action.”
TikTok did not provide a statement but pointed out that the app is for users aged 13 and over and prohibited any sexually explicit material, and would remove any accounts that violate these guidelines.
Controversy over TikTok arrives as Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright said he would write to apps including Tinder and Grindr to quiz them on child safety.
2018 figures from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) found how children are being groomed online within 45 minutes, in part due to “sexting’s” popularity.
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The concern over the increase of grooming online has pushed some of the biggest technology companies in the world to develop a tool aimed at catching paedophiles using social media to target children. However, this tool is still a prototype.
The government is currently drawing up new laws on social media modelled on a statutory duty of care.
The White Paper will create a new
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