Young people ‘de-sensitised’ after being exposed to footage of fights and sexual assault online, survey finds
More than half of young people have watched violent social media content including real-life fighting and sexual assault in the past year, research has suggested.
A poll of more than 2,000 teenagers aged between 13 and 17 found that 55 per cent had seen violent content online.
The most common form of violence was fights and threats to beat someone up. A quarter of young people surveyed had seen another child carrying a weapon online, while 13 per cent had watched a sexual assault.
The survey by the Youth Endowment Fund, an independent charity backed by the Home Office, also revealed that 14 per cent of teenagers had skipped school because they feared being a victim of violence.
Some 65 per cent said they have altered their behaviour, appearance or where they go to keep themselves safe.
Jon Yates, executive director of the Youth Endowment Fund, said: “Far too many of our children are being exposed to real-life, violent content on social media. This matters.
“Children tell us that their fear of violence leads them to skip school, lose sleep and miss out on the fun moments that make up childhood.
“It doesn’t have to be like this.”
The survey found that the proportion of children who had seen real-life violence online varied by region.
While 55 per cent overall had seen violent content online, the proportion rose to 60 per cent in the north-west, north-east and London, compared with 44 per cent in the south-west.
‘Children are de-sensitised’
Fatoumata Bayo Diba, 19, a member of the charity’s youth advisory board, said: “Unfortunately, I was not surprised by most of the report’s findings, especially when it comes to children being exposed to violence through social media.
“I’ve got younger siblings. It worries me how accessible this type of content can be to them. What worries me the most is that seeing violence everywhere you go has become the norm. People and especially children are de-sensitised to the horror that circulates around.”
The Youth Endowment Fund said that social media companies need to “do much more” to keep children safe online.
The study also found that 19 per cent of young people surveyed admitted to carrying out an act of violence, including more than 80 who wielded a weapon.
The findings come as a separate poll commissioned by the Centre for Social Justice found that more than half of parents fret over their children returning safely from school, with around half saying they and their offspring have been victims of anti-social behaviour.
Youth knife crime has risen by almost a third since 2014, according to figures from the Youth Justice Board.
Official figures showed that last year there were 50 homicides where the victim was a teenager. In 70 per cent of these teenage homicides, the method of killing was with a knife or sharp instrument.
‘Missed opportunity’ of sport to prevent crime
The Centre for Social Justice published its survey as it launches an inquiry into how sport and physical activity can transform the lives of disaffected youngsters and restore order on the streets.
The think tank argued that fewer opportunities for sport and physical activity is a “missed opportunity” to stop thousands of young people growing up to lead dangerous lives of crime.
The inquiry, which is backed by Courtney Lawes, England rugby captain, will be chaired by Lord Nash, a former schools minister.
Andy Cook, chief executive of the Centre for Social Justice, said: “Sport is a secret weapon that can not only change youngsters’ lives for the better, but make our streets safer.
“I hope ministers follow this inquiry closely and unleash the power of sport and physical activity to improve the opportunities for a generation of young people.”TIOB News