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Schoolkids want social media giants to do more to stop online bullying

Schoolchildren feel that social media companies such as Facebook and Instagram can do much more to protect them from online abuse

Nearly two-thirds of children and teenagers think the social media giants should delete abusive messages before a complaint is made, according to research from BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.

Its survey canvassed 6,500 young people about online safety and found that almost half of them do not believe social media companies consider their safety when developing new products.

The BCS sent the survey to teachers in more than 1,700 primary and secondary schools in England between 27 November 2017 and 1 January 2018, asking them to involve their pupils in the research.

Nearly two-thirds (66% of under-13s, 63% of 13 to 18-year-olds) thought tech firms should delete abusive messages before a complaint is made, and three-quarters (81% of under-13s and 69% of 13 to 18-year-olds) said they should go a step further by automatically stopping rude or abusive posts from showing up in the first place.      

Nearly two-thirds of the young people wanted social media firms to publish how much bullying actually takes place on their sites, the BCS said.

Also, half of those questioned (42% of under-13s, 41% of 13 to 18-year-olds) said tech companies do not think about the online safety of people their age when they develop websites or apps. The children surveyed also felt there was too much secrecy surrounding the levels of bullying already taking place.

Two-thirds of the young people (73% of under-13s, 62% of 13 to 18-year-olds) thought it would be helpful to see how much bullying happens on social media websites such as Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram, according to the research.

The BCS study follows plans announced by the UK government in November to reduce online dangers such as cyber bullying, trolling and porn. In May last year, a House of Lords select committee report on online safety called for internet service providers and the government to do more to protect the interests of children using the internet.

David Evans, director of policy at the BCS, said: “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.”

Evans said the survey shows that young people have strong concerns and opinions about what social media platforms should be doing to make the internet 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,” he said.

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