Undated handout photo issued by the 5Rights Foundation of a collection of mock toys which mimic online abuse.

Mock toy range to highlight dangers children face online

Image credit: Leo Goddard/5Rights

A UK-based children’s rights group has unveiled a collection of mock toys which mimic online abuse to highlight how certain behaviours permitted online would never be tolerated in the real world.

As part of a campaign to bring attention to these issues, the 5Rights Foundation has launched 'Twisted Toys'. The collection includes a Share Bear which gathers and shares a child’s data and a Pocket Troll that scrutinises every moment of a child’s day and bombards them with unkind comments.

The campaign group said its aim is to help parents understand the dangers children can be exposed to online. They have also launched the collection alongside new research from 5Rights which found that 80 per cent of parents do not trust tech companies to protect children online, and 71 per cent think the Government should do more around online safety.

Earlier this year, the Government published its long-delayed draft Online Safety Bill, which will introduce an extra duty of care for online platforms and place them within the scope of communication regulator Ofcom in its new role as an online regulator. But 5Rights chair Baroness Beeban Kidron said parents still want more to be done.

“Too often, people forget that digital products and services are consumer goods – and they need to be safe for those who use them, especially children,” she said. “We don’t share personal information about children with random strangers, we don’t allow strangers to knock on the door and ask for a naked Polaroid, we don’t allow people to assess their emotional state to sell them something. But all of this takes place online every day.”

Kidron added we don’t accept such actions in the real world; therefore we must not allow it in the digital world. “Twisted Toys shows just how dangerous and inappropriate data surveillance is; that terms and conditions are not fit for purpose; and that the tech sector is failing to offer even the most basic safety requirements. Parents want change.”

Undated handout photo issued by the 5Rights Foundation of a stalkie talkie which allows strangers to interact with children.

The disturbing toy range also includes a storybook of terms and conditions that would take hundreds of hours to read and a “stalkie talkie” which allows strangers to interact with children.

Image credit: Leo Goddard/5Rights

Several online safety campaigners have backed the campaign, including Ian Russell, whose daughter Molly took her own life in 2017 after viewing self-harm and suicide content on social media. Russell, who has since created the Molly Rose foundation in his daughter’s memory, said that while the mock toys “might seem to be a disturbing vision of a warped future”, they in fact “reveal the digital danger our children face every day, right now”.

“Since the death of my youngest daughter in 2017, I have looked into the depths of these perils and felt the disturbing effect they produce,” he said. “Safely designed tech platforms can be a significant benefit to our children, but as long as profit continues to be prioritised, distress will be spread digitally, and young lives will be ruined and lost.”

Russell believes the toy collection will send a coherent message and raise awareness about harms too easily found online, harms that can adversely affect our mental wellbeing. “This 5Rights campaign will save lives, it stimulates reaction and clearly shows effective regulation is long overdue to stop the misery and anguish the tech platforms can cause.”

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