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This briefing aims to understand which apps and sites children and teens are using to communicate, and to find out more about what they are sharing on these platforms. In March 2020 we polled 2,003 children aged 8-17 on their use of messaging platforms, in an effort to understand the risks that these services may pose to both children and teenagers. This briefing sets out our findings.

It is the latest research as part of the Commissioner’s digital programme, which explores the full range of online platforms used by children – from social media, to gaming, and now messaging. Today’s generation of children have grown up with digital technology as a central feature of their lives: an estimated one in three internet users around the world are children, and half of ten year olds in the UK now own their own smartphone. The biggest technology companies have a significant impact on all of our lives, including children’s – as highlighted by plans to establish a new technology regulation unit at the Competition and Markets Authority.

The digital world has so much to offer children, from having fun and playing games, to connecting with friends and family – not to mention accessing vital educational resources during the Covid-19 crisis. But it was not designed with children in mind, and despite their overwhelming presence on these platforms, the digital world has not kept pace in keeping them from harm.

This briefing sets out what needs to be done to protect children online so they can enjoy the benefits of the online world, whichever platforms they use.