The NSPCC is warning of serious safeguarding risks as a result of a growing trend in Zoom calls being ‘bombed’ with child sexual abuse images.
The charity has said a worrying pattern is emerging of public meetings held on the online platform being targeted by criminals sharing illegal and disturbing material, with law enforcement investigating a number of reports.
A ‘Zoombombing’ incident this week in Plymouth saw 60 children taking part in an online fitness class exposed to footage of child sex abuse. Devon and Cornwall Police reported that the extremely distressing video was streamed by the offender to both organisers and participants.
Following similar incidents across the UK and worldwide, the NSPCC is urging parents to supervise their children when using Zoom and conference organisers to take steps to secure meeting details and passwords.
Andy Burrows, Head of Child Safety Online Policy at the NSPCC, said: “There appears to be a deeply disturbing trend emerging of online public meetings being ‘bombed’ with images of child sexual abuse, which must have been incredibly upsetting for both the children and adults involved.
“While the responsibility for this lies with those uploading this terrible footage, it’s important to take precautions to lessen the risks posed to children and adults, including not sharing full meeting details and passwords on social media and only providing them to people you trust.
“Zoom needs to urgently act to protect their users, while all tech firms providing video conferencing services must immediately set out how they are responding to these very real risks.”
The NSPCC and O2 have published safety advice about Zoom on their Net Aware site which applies for all video conferencing services.
- Supervising your child whenever they are using Zoom.
- Ensure meetings are password protected. This will be compulsory from Saturday May 9th.
- If you’re hosting a public meeting ensure only you can share your screen by turning on the function when setting up the call.
- Ensure the waiting room feature is on at all times and only let in people you know.
- Do not share meeting details or passwords publicly or on social media, including in ‘closed’ groups, and only share them privately with attendees you know and trust.
- Familiarise yourself with the security icon in the menu bar so you know how to lock the meeting, use the waiting room and remove participants
Any adult concerned about the welfare of a child or young person can call the NSPCC helpline for free and confidential advice on 0808 800 5000 or email email@example.com. A dedicated O2/NSPCC online safety helpline is available on 0808 800 5002.
Children can contact Childline for free on 0800 1111 or visit childline.org.uk and speak to a counsellor about a worry or concern they may have 365-days-a-year.