Great Britain

Loose Women stars reveal horror of finding their kids chatting to paedos, as they back Sun’s TikTok campaign

WHEN Nadia Sawalha started hoovering her house around 10 years ago, she had no idea of the horrors taking place upstairs in her daughter's bedroom.

Maddie, then aged eight, was playing on her computer with her step-sister when they accidentally ended up in a paedophile chat room - with a man exposing his penis to them.

It's still one of the Loose Women star's most haunting memories and has spurred her on to back our TikTok Time Bomb campaign, along with her friend and co-panellist, Kaye Adams.

The series is shining a light on the more sinister side of the app and making mums and dads aware of the risks kids are facing - something both Nadia, 55, and Kaye, 57, feel passionately about. 

Both stars were disgusted when they heard of Sun Online's findings of paedophile, extremist and sexual content available on there.

Nadia and Kaye have both experienced first hand how predators can slip through the cracks online and have since been raising awareness of the perils of the internet through their joint book, Parent Alert and campaigns on Loose Women.

Here they share their own chilling experiences to help alert other parents to potential threats.

Nadia: 'It was the most horrendous thing'

Nadia, who shares daughters Maddie, 17, and Kiki, 12, with her husband Mark Adderley, has seen first-hand just how dangerous the internet can be.

“We had a really nasty shock when Maddie was about [nine]," she tells the Sun Online.

"I didn’t even have a computer then, I wasn’t even online, and I was downstairs hoovering and she was upstairs with my step-daughter and they were just innocently chatting."

The sound of laughter gave way to spine-chilling shrieks and crying, followed by Maddie running into her room, she writes in her book of the experience.

“Once we’d calmed the girls down, we discovered that, while innocently perusing Fleur’s Facebook page, a friend of Fleur’s had shared a link to a ‘fun’ chatroom all about rabbits, seemingly targeted at young girls," she adds.

“When they innocently clicked through on the link, they arrived at a chatroom that seemed to be fun enough, until four men appeared and started chatting to them, telling them they were pretty.

“As they started to have second thoughts, they described seeing the ‘live’ process of a man getting his penis out and – well, we don’t need to explain what it was that he was doing.

“Maddie was in floods of tears and, although she says she only saw things very briefly before Fleur closed the laptop, she was deeply upset for a long time afterwards.”

She adds: “It freaks me out that what actually happened right here in our very own house with both my husband and myself in the vicinity was tantamount to child sex abuse via social media – truly terrifying."

Nadia tells us: “Three wrong turns online and they ended up in a paedophile chat room with live feeds.

“Maddie is 17 now but it was the most horrendous thing. Really, really awful.

“I’m from the 70s and 80s so you used to get flashed all the time, but at least it wasn’t in your house. I was downstairs bloody hovering.

“So I don’t think anyone can rest on their laurels... Nobody is 100 per cent protected. Nobody. I was totally naïve with Maddie’s situation.”

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'They asked them to do the cucumber dance'

It wasn't just her eldest daughter caught up in a nightmare situation however, as some close friends of Nadia's youngest child Kiki were targeted by sick monsters online too - a hellish experience she's previously spoken about on Loose Women.

"It happened about four years ago," Nadia recalls. "My daughter's friend was having a sleepover. They were upstairs dancing and listening to Musical.ly [which was later merged to become TikTok].

“Her friend's mum got a text from the mother of another girl saying, ‘Do you know the girls are upstairs dancing and there are some paedophiles messaging them?'

“Where they were dancing they’d been saying to them, ‘Can you do the cucumber dance, can you do the knicker dance’ and all of this, and they just hadn’t caught on. They had no idea. They were so young. They were like seven. It’s horrific."

While Nadia says she's just getting to grips with TikTok now, she insists she wouldn't ban Kiki - who loves the app - from using it, as she believes banning phones does more harm than good.

Instead, she plans to speak to her openly and discuss what she should do if she's ever targeted, or feels uncomfortable, on the app.

“Oh God. Really? Oh s**t," she says. "It’s so good you’re looking at this."

'It's growing out of control'

Nadia has applauded The Sun Online's TikTok campaign for "raising awareness of these dangers" and says: "It’s not just about communicating with our children, it’s about communicating as parents too between each other."

“You ask 50 per cent of under 25 years olds if they’d prefer to break a bone in their hand or their phone, they’d say a bone in their hand," she adds.

“I do think it’s really worrying how fast social media is growing and almost becoming out of control."

She is now calling for a helpline for parents, similar to the Samaritans, offering support to anyone who feels confused and helpless when it comes to their child's online activity.

“I really sympathise with parents that feel out of control with social media," she says. "People who aren’t even on social media... I don’t know how they cope. It must be this big dark hole of scariness.”

Kaye: 'It’s you and your kids against these creeps'

Nadia's best friend and co-star Kaye shares daughters Charly, 17 and Bonnie, 13 with long-term partner Ian Campbell.

The star has been through her own internet hell with her kids and says she has even discovered "random blokes" messaging Bonnie on her old Musical.ly account previously.

“I know she has had random blokes somehow crashing in there," she says. "She told me about it luckily… Do I know if she’s told me every time? I don’t know that."

She adds: “Just like creeps and paedophiles all hang around schools, they’re going to hang around platforms where little girls are singing and dancing.”

Kaye Adams tries latest TikTok dance craze with her daughter

'What are we doing with girls?'

Kaye says while Bonnie loves TikTok, Charly considers herself too old for the app.

When Kaye learns of the Sun's investigations into sexualised content available on TikTok, she reacts with horror.

“Oh my God, that just kills me that. What are we doing with girls? It’s terrifying," she gasps.

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a global social media app that lets users create and share short videos with music and camera effects.

It's owned by Beijing-based ByteDance and was originally released in 2016.

The $78billion conglomerate acquired the Musical.ly app in 2017 and merged it with TikTok, bringing millions of new users.

It's one of the world’s most downloaded smartphone apps – with an estimated 1.5billion downloads across the globe, according to data from mobile research firm Sensor Tower.

TikTok particularly attracts younger audiences, with around 41 per cent of its users aged between 16 and 24.

Like Nadia, Kaye believes open conversations with her kids - without banning or punishing them - is the key to ensuring she's as aware and safe as possible.

“You’ve got to be on the same side as your kids on this, because it’s not you and your kids, it’s you and your kids against these creeps," she says.

While she says steps have been made by social media giants to combat inappropriate behaviour, she firmly believes there still needs to be more regulation.

“These companies are allowed largely to self-regulate," she says. "I don’t understand why.”

'The only place I’ve ever seen it is in Amsterdam'

Kaye says she's fully backing our TikTok campaign now to ensure parents don't become complacent.

She's praised the Sun Online's bid to clamp down on the social media platform and says: "People have used that expression before, the Wild West... these companies cannot be given free rein like this.

“I cannot think of any other hugely powerful influence in our kids life that we just sort of take our hands off the wheel."

"The other really worrying thing is we start to redefine what is creepy and what is acceptable [on social media]," she adds.

“That line is starting to get moved in a really worrying direction. Ten years ago, can you imagine at a school disco an eight-year-old starts sexy dancing and taking clothes off?

“It’s inconceivable and unimaginable. You’d be worried for the child. You’d be trying to figure out what’s going on in that kid’s life to make them respond in that way.

“Even the pouty stuff, the posing, the highly sexual posing and all that stuff, if you brought that into the real world at some family gathering or the school disco, you’d think what the f*** is going on here?

“The only place I’ve ever seen it in real life is in Amsterdam – you know what I’m talking about. It’s really awful.”

A TikTok spokesperson told the Sun Online: "Promoting a positive and safe app environment for our users is a top priority for TikTok. We use both technologies and human moderation teams to identify, review and remove dangerous or abusive content.

"We have investigated every individual case that has been raised and removed all content that violates our Community Guidelines."

They added: "We have a number of protective measures in place to reduce the opportunity for misuse and we're constantly evolving our measures to further strengthen safety on TikTok."

Nadia hosts a regular podcast - Confessions of a Modern Parent - focusing on modern parenting and the impact of the internet.

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