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Violent, misogynistic videos are harming children, warns NSPCC

Online influencers can be harmful for children. Pic: NSPCC. Posed by models
Online influencers can be harmful for children. Pic: NSPCC. Posed by models

THERE has been a lot of discussion in the national media in recent weeks about online misogyny, toxic masculinity and the ‘Manosphere’.

These influencers promote themselves as models of masculinity, appearing in sunny locations with signifiers of wealth like expensive cars and large cigars while sharing their thoughts on how they believe women should be treated and their place in society. These often violent, misogynistic accounts are undoubtedly cutting through to young men and boys, and by watching these videos, encourage the algorithm to expose them to more and more similar content.

The automated promotion of harmful material to young people is a concern that the NSPCC has raised many times over the years, because we know how viewing inappropriate material can affect children. It’s well documented how suicide and self-harm material online can push young people to hurt themselves or even take their own lives.

The increase in misogynistic material is also causing harm. Our Childline counsellors offer support to children and have heard from young people who’ve found themselves exposed to the effects of these videos in the classroom. One 13-year-old girl told Childline “all the boys” in her class were talking about these videos and clearly taking the influencers’ messages to heart. She said: “They started picking on me and some of my friends because we are girls wanting to become things that ‘aren’t for women’. It’s made me feel like I’ll never get into my chosen field considering people like them will be in the future generation. I hate it so much but I know I can’t do anything to stop it.”

It is deeply concerning that children are being exposed to misogynistic content that promotes violence against women while they navigate social media. Viewing such material at a young age can shape a child’s experiences and attitudes, resulting in further harm to women and girls, on and offline. Work can be done to help prevent this happening. That’s one of the pillars of the Online Safety Bill which the NSPCC has spent more than four years campaigning for. We want the Bill, due before Parliament again this month, to give social media and tech platforms clear duties to prevent children from viewing harmful content. It should also incorporate a Violence Against Women and Girls Code of Practice, ensuring the algorithms of sites don’t amplify sexism and gendered abuse. If you’re worried that your child has or could be exposed to these kinds of accounts, call NSPCC Helpline on 0808 8005000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk