50 per cent of school children have seen sexual, violent or other adult material on social media sites, apps and games, and 78 per cent have joined social media sites before the minimum age of 13, according to the NSPCC's Net Aware guide.
With those figures in mind, the charity has partnered with O2 to produce a free mobile app for iOS and Android aimed at giving parents a guide to 50 of the most popular social media sites, apps and games that young people use, to help them talk to their children about socialising safely online.
O2 and the NSPCC surveyed over 1,700 children and young people, along with over 500 parents, as part of its Parent Advisory Board initiative to review and rate the most popular social networking apps and sites. According to the report, the top five sites where young people are exposed to inappropriate content are Sickipedia, Chatroulette, Omegle, Ask.fm and Yik Yak.
Young people are more likely than their parents to report seeing harmful content on three quarters of the sites they looked at, and while young people rated Chatroulette, Omegle and Tumblr as high risk for sexual content, parents rated them as low, highlighting the need for education so parents can have informed conversations.
"More than sixty per cent of young people we asked said social media platforms need to do more to keep children safe," said Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC. "These companies need to take more responsibility for keeping children safe online. We think there should be minimum standards in place and a new regulator may be required if the industry cannot regulate itself."
"As a parent it can be difficult to keep up with the many different websites, apps and games our tech-savvy children know so well," said Nina Bibby, marketing and consumer director at O2. "It's vital that parents actively participate in their children's digital life to help them stay safe online.
"At O2 we believe we have an important role to play in giving both parents and children the necessary digital skills to safely make the most of technology. That's why the latest Net Aware guide and our partnership with the NSPCC is all about giving parents the support, advice and information they need to have the right kind of conversations about the online world."