Children as young as three at risk from groomers on online games

A voluntary code of practice for social networks is “no longer enough”, the report said, and there should instead be a “statutory Code which should be underpinned by robust regulation”. 

It added that there was a “variety of age rating systems for mobile apps, meaning a single game can be rated in multiple ways, causing confusion for parents and young people”.

A “consistent” ratings system was required for online and mobile games, the report said, similar to the strict system in place for traditional boxed or downloadable console games, which have age ratings ranging from 3+ to 18+.

Around nine million people in the UK are thought to play games on their smartphones, and by the age of 10 almost half of children have their own smartphone. 

The NSPCC said that 10 years after its original report which made 38 recommendations to improve online safety for children, just 16 have been fully implemented.

Of the rest 11 have been “completely ignored” and seven were “partially implemented”, with another four no longer relevant. 

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: “It’s impossible to fathom how much harm has been done over those years in terms of online sexual abuse, hate speech, violent and harmful content and cyber bullying.”

A DCMS spokesman said:  “We are clear that social media companies must go further and faster in reducing the risks their platforms pose, particularly to children, and we are considering all options to make this happen -  including changes to the law where necessary.

“Making the UK the safest place in the world to be online is a top priority and we are working with industry, schools and parents to make sure there are robust protections in place.”

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