While this has some benefit in the wake of COVID-19 – children have been able to continue their schooling and interact with their peers even while isolating – by spending more time unsupervised online, children’s e-safety is increasingly at risk of several online threats including inappropriate content, cyberbullying, scams and grooming.
The current state of user and age verification in e-safety
Some popular social media and online gaming platforms ask for a user’s age to determine what content and features are appropriate for them. This is a great start but without a way for these platforms to verify that the age provided is true or that the user is a real child, children are still at risk. Anyone (both children and predators) can create an account and provide false personal details…
Cyberbullying from fake accounts
Are you familiar with the term “finsta”? This is where people (usually children & teens) create a ‘fake Instagram’ account that only selected people are allowed to follow. Finsta’s are created as an outlet for young people to be freer with what they post and say without judgement from parents or other family members. This is something that many kids and teens do across any social media or gaming platform where a parent or carer can see their activity.
In itself, creating additional accounts online ties in with a growing child’s desire for privacy – however, these fake accounts can often be used maliciously. Fake social media and gaming accounts are used for anonymous or unaccountable cyberbullying. With no repercussions, children can say anything to one another regardless of how hurtful it can become.
Children posing as adults
As well as being able to create additional accounts, without any verification in place children can lie about their age to gain access to the platforms and features they really want to use. This can leave them exposed to content that isn’t appropriate for them – everything from gambling ads to graphic violence and sexual content that can ultimately have long-lasting effects on their mental health.
Predators posing as children
Child groomers and internet scammers often pose as children to get closer to the child they are targeting. Using stock imagery and childish language, it is very easy to pretend to be a child online. They start conversations with children and gather details over time that can be used to exploit or attack them.
The future of user and age verification in e-safety
We at CAP believe that the only way to protect a child online is to identify them as such and to create a walled garden for real children so imposters can’t reach them to hurt them.
Our Child Authentication and Protection platform uses data from schools and local authorities throughout the UK to verify a child’s identity. This means that only a real child (no fake accounts or predators) would be verified and thus allowed to interact with your child online.