A teenage girl, just 14 according to her profile, sits in her kitchen in her blue school uniform. I need to go and do my homework.’Another British girl, 13, describes herself as ‘beautiful and sexy’.
It takes just seconds to register an account, after which users can start broadcasting their own live videos — known as ‘live streaming’ — or watch others doing the same.Their questions and comments flash up as text at the bottom of the screen.‘I’m getting melty when I look at your magical eyes,’ says one typed comment, to which she replies by talking directly to the camera: ‘Thank you, I love you too.’Another: ‘Any guy would be lucky to have you’; ‘Do you have a boyfriend? One follower, named ‘lover boy’, calls her ‘sweet, sexy, lovable’ in a written comment that appears on her screen.’‘No,’ she says, in a clipped Home Counties accent. In Newcastle, a youngster dressed in black with a pierced nose has her face pressed up close to the screen. ‘Some bloke wants to see my feet,’ she says to the camera.‘Pervert,’ shouts another young voice, belonging to someone out of shot.‘Oh man, that is so gross,’ the girl says, sticking out her tongue to reveal several piercings.To an uninitiated, naive or inexperienced user — such as a child with their first smartphone, or a parent not au fait with the latest technology — it could easily be mistaken for a harmless environment in which to find new friends. Look more closely and you will find that many of the live streams feature very young girls dressing and behaving extremely provocatively, urged by their viewers to perform increasingly sexualised acts.The Lolita-esque nature of the content is deeply disturbing. They dress in skimpy shorts and tiny crop tops; their rooms, by contrast, are adorned with fairy lights and posters, teddy bears and fluffy cushions.