Net Aware report 2017: “Freedom to express myself safely”

In 2015 the NSPCC, in partnership with O2, launched the Net Aware tool to provide parents with useful information about the most popular sites, apps and games used by young people. The tool is updated on an annual basis through a survey of young people’s experiences online.This report sets out key findings from the 2016/17 survey about young people’s experiences on the most popular social networks. It puts forward recommendations for government, industry and parents to improve online child safety.

The survey of 1,696 11–18 year olds in the UK, from December 2016 to February 2017, found that young people valued online opportunities for:

  • fun
  • communication
  • self-expression
  • autonomy.

However, young people also reported negative experiences. 1 in 4 reviews of online platforms identified risks, including:

  • interaction with strangers
  • violence and hatred
  • sexual content
  • bullying.

Young people were also asked about their knowledge of safety functions and age ratings on the sites they used. Their reviews showed that:

  • young people’s understanding of safety functions for the 5 most popular sites was higher than the average for all sites reviewed
  • in 66% of reviews of platforms with an age restriction of 13 or older, young people reported that they had used the site before the age of 13.

The report recommends the establishment of an independent body to ensure social media platforms are transparent and accountable for the safety of children using their services. It also includes specific recommendations for social media platforms and parents.

Recommendations for social media platforms include:

  • bespoke accounts for under 18s
  • clear and robust community standards
  • clear reporting and blocking procedures
  • proactive flagging of inappropriate content and suspicious accounts.

Recommendations for parents and carers include using the TEAM framework:

  • Talk frequently to children about staying safe online
  • Explore the online world together as a family
  • Agree on family rules about what is and isn’t OK online
  • Manage privacy settings and controls on the sites, apps and games the family uses.