Home Page ContentPress Releases Just 24 complaints to Ofcom for minors watching harmful content on streaming platforms last year – age verification legislation vital with parents unaware of kids’ viewing habits

Just 24 complaints to Ofcom for minors watching harmful content on streaming platforms last year – age verification legislation vital with parents unaware of kids’ viewing habits

by Anthony Weaver
  • Exclusive figures obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request reveal tiny number of complaints – follows research from Children’s Commissioner for England suggesting one in 10 children have watched pornography by the age of nine
  • Online Safety Bill needs to enforce more stringent age verification requirements on tech companies to protect minors
  • Policymakers and regulators should consider imposing fines on poor practice by video streaming platforms who fail to prevent minors from accessing harmful content

1st May 2023: Regulator Ofcom received just 24 complaints last year after under 18s accessed harmful content on video streaming platforms as parents remain unaware of children’s online activity. This situation is worsened by the continued failure of tech platforms to introduce stringent age verification measures to protect minors.

According to research from TMT Analysis, the mobile identity company, the number of complaints made to Ofcom for minors viewing inappropriate content has slightly risen from just nine complaints logged in 2021*. However, given parents have little control over the content their children access online, the number of minors viewing inappropriate material will be far higher.

The scale of the issue of minors viewing harmful content was revealed by recent research from the Children’s Commissioner for England showing that one in 10 children have watched pornography by the time they are nine years old – rising to a quarter by the time they leave primary school. Similarly, four out of five (79%) children had seen pornography involving violence before they turned 18.

Research from The Center for Countering Digital Hate recently revealed that the vulnerable TikTok accounts it created as part of its research were provided with three times more harmful content and 12 times more self-harm and suicide-related content.

Since Ofcom began accepting complaints under the Video Sharing Platform (VSP) regime in November 2020, no platforms have been fined after complaints of minors accessing inappropriate content.

The Online Safety Bill, which is currently being discussed in the House of Lords, will increase the regulatory burden on tech companies including video sharing platforms and award Ofcom additional powers over such platforms. TMT Analysis adds that the Bill must include the requirement for effective age verification processes on all platforms used by under 18s that may host inappropriate or harmful content and allow Ofcom to impose significant fines on those who fail to comply.

In the US, several states have introduced or announced plans to introduce legislation making it illegal for adult content websites to publish or distribute content deemed harmful to minors without having the appropriate age verification barriers in place. The UK needs to follow suit.

John Wilkinson, CEO of TMT Analysis, says: “This is simply the tip of the iceberg – parents have less control than ever before over the content their children are viewing online, so it’s vital that tech platforms step up and introduce more effective age verification measures to protect minors from harmful content.

“Ofcom are receiving just a handful of complaints from concerned parents, suggesting that they’re either blissfully unaware of the content children are consuming online or don’t know they can complain to the regulator. The Online Safety Bill is a unique opportunity to boost safety measures for children online and force the tech sector to take the protection of under 18s more seriously – or face the wrath of Ofcom.

“The introduction of fines on platforms failing to protect minors would push companies to improve age verification measures – as would the risk of reputational damage on those being publicly shamed for poor practice. Solutions like TMT’s Verify product reviews a user’s mobile phone history to offer organisations accurate and almost instantaneous confirmation of a user’s age to ensure they’re not accessing any harmful or inappropriate content.”

TMT Analysis is one of the leading companies in the world specialising in ID and verification services through mobile number checks. Using live mobile operator data, the company processes billions of data queries from around the world to its database every month – providing name, address and age validation to a mobile number.  

TMT’s product Verify offers organisations the tools to accurately and simply enhance their age verification processes to boost security. Utilising data gathered from over 80 countries every day, including trusted sources – such as telecoms companies and mobile network operators, regulators and third parties – Verify strengthens the on-boarding process for businesses and reduces fake accounts by accurately verifying a user’s identity from their mobile phone history.

Tech platforms looking to speak to an expert for more information on TMT’s Verify product can visit here – https://www.tmtanalysis.com/verify/.

* Analysis of complaints to Ofcom regarding under 18s accessing inappropriate content on video-sharing platforms in the 12 months to 31st December 2022, the latest figures available.

About TMT Analysis 

TMT Analysis started in 2016 with a mission to provide the very best mobile numbering intelligence service, using the quickest, most accurate data and technology available. Using customer mobile numbers enables organisations to obtain rich, actionable data intelligence to strengthen and validate the user verification process, reduce face accounts, give risk insights and determine the optimal channel for message delivery. 

In just a few short years TMT Analysis has become a leading provider of global mobile intelligence to banks and financial services, social networking companies, e-commerce sites, in

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