Police forces around the country are pursuing investigations into abuse of young footballers by coaches at top clubs in the 1980s and '90s after almost 900 calls were received on a phone hotline for victims.
Asked about the scandal at his first press conference since being named Three Lions boss, Southgate said: "I think the first thing to say is the bravery of the players that have come forward is exceptional. To hear the stories is heartbreaking really. I'm involved in an organisation now (The FA) that is taking this extremely seriously. I'm impressed with what they're doing in terms of investigating that.
"I can also speak as a parent, and I've been involved in grassroots teams [in the past]. When I was involved, we know what has happened in the past in our country - not just in football, but in other parts of society - and there have been great strides. What's important over the next few weeks is that we still investigate what happened and that we learn from what happened. I think we're in a much better place than we were 15 to 20 years ago."
Southgate went on to reveal that he had previously played with one of the ex-footballers who has come forward and admitted that the allegations now made sense in "hindsight".
"With the benefit of hindsight, you always relay things that you've seen from the past," he said. "You have an understanding of 'oh, maybe that's why we saw the things we saw'.
"It's a personal choice [to speak out]. We definitely commend the bravery of those that have spoken out, but lots of people won't feel comfortable speaking out and we have to respect that too."
Ex-Newcastle United player David Eaton is the latest player to come forward, alleging that he was sexually abused by coach George Ormond between the ages of 18 and 21.