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Violent online content ‘unavoidable’ for UK children, Ofcom finds

Ofcom's research demonstrates that exposure to violent online content is inevitable for UK children, some as young as primary school age.
Every child in the study had seen violence online, including extreme and gang-related material, although they did not actively seek the more severe content lurking deeper on the web.

The NSPCC criticized tech companies for neglecting their responsibility to protect young users, as the consumption of harmful content poses significant risks to their mental and emotional well-being. Ofcom's research, by Family, Kids and Youth, anticipates the regulator's enforcement role under the newly passed Online Safety Act.

Ofcom urges tech companies to prepare for compliance with child safety laws and promises upcoming consultations on industry expectations for online child protection. The report noted that popular platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and WhatsApp frequently host private accounts that distribute violent content.

Children admitted feeling peer pressure to appear unfazed by such content, despite feeling disturbed internally. The study observed a troubling trend of children becoming desensitized to violence, with experts worried about its normalization both online and offline.

Twitter, recently rebranded as X, faced scrutiny for a viral graphic clip posted by owner Elon Musk, highlighting the issue of platform leaders contributing to the spread of violent content. While tools exist to report offensive content, children express skepticism about their effectiveness and fear retaliation for being "snitches."

Furthermore, algorithm-driven platforms like TikTok and Instagram may inadvertently increase exposure to violence when children engage with such content, even for reporting purposes.

Mental health professionals express concern about the impact of violent content on children's well-being, an issue underscored by lengthy waits for mental health services in England.

Snapchat's spokesperson condemned violent content on their platform, emphasizing swift action against it and cooperation with law enforcement. They also expressed support for the goals of the Online Safety Act. Meta and X have yet to respond to the findings.

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