London - More than a quarter of British children have seen distressing videos of animal cruelty online, according to research that reveals how little parents know about their offspring's internet habits. The figure means animal-harm videos are now the most commonly viewed inappropriate content by under-16s.
Two thirds of youngsters have had a negative web experience, but only one in five parents realise this, according to the parenting website Netmums. More than 800 children, aged seven to 16, and 1,127 parents were interviewed in the study.
The psychological impact of exposure to disturbing online content was revealed by the comments children made about upsetting experiences. One child recalled that they had seen “a beaten-up dog all bleeding and some guy with a hammer laughing”. Another said: “When Facebook got hacked lots of pictures of animals being hurt were popping up.”
One video, viewed by thousands online, shows a young woman drowning a bucket of puppies in a river by throwing them in one by one.
Sometimes shocking content depicting animals being hurt is deliberately listed as something benign, such as “cute puppy”, on sharing sites such as Tumblr, in an effort to lure in unsuspecting viewers.