TikTok, livestreaming apps are 'hunting ground' for abusers, warn kids' advocates

Popular social-networking apps aren't safe places for kids, says UK-based National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

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Shelby Brown (she/her/hers) is an editor for CNET's services team. She covers tips and tricks for apps, operating systems and devices, as well as mobile gaming and Apple Arcade news. Shelby also oversees Tech Tips coverage. Before joining CNET, she covered app news for Download.com and served as a freelancer for Louisville.com.
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Shelby Brown
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Advocates for kids warn livestreaming apps can be "a hunting ground" for child abusers.

Reggie Casagrande / Getty Images

Popular video and livestreaming apps like TikTok are under fire from children's charities in the UK.

"We know that a significant amount of children are being contacted via popular livestreaming apps, such as TikTok, by abusers who are using them as a hunting ground," a spokesperson for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said this weekend.

The NSPCC said it surveyed 40,000 schoolchildren and discovered that 25 percent of the children had livestreamed with a stranger. One in 20 children were asked, while livestreaming or in the comments of a posted video, to take their clothes off, according to NSPCC.

TikTok requires users to be at least age 13 to use the app, but it has no way to ensure the user is telling the truth. Several UK schools have warned parents about the app, reported the Mirror on Saturday.

Barnardo's, a prominent UK children's charity, reported it's seeing kids as young as 8 years old being sexually exploited online.

"It's helpful when schools share information with parents about potential risks online," Barnardo's Chief Executive Javed Khan said. "Children need to hear consistent messages at home and at school about how to stay safe. We also encourage parents to have open and honest conversations with their children about which sites they are using and who they are speaking to online -- as well as making sure they have the right security settings in place."

In addition to sexually abusive comments, searches on TikTok showed content that appears to promote eating disorders and self-harm

TikTok didn't immediately have a response when reached for comment.

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