Parents need additional support to protect their children from online dangers

Last month, I highlighted the issue of the Cyber Safe Ireland’s 2016 annual report which focused on minor’s cyber safety education in Ireland. 84% of teachers surveyed for that study said they do not cover online safety as part of the curriculum. Meanwhile, 64% said they do not have sufficient resources to effectively deliver educational messages on internet safety.   As a result, I called for increased investment and improved cyber safety education in schools nationwide

A new survey released today, conducted by National Anti-Bullying Centre at Dublin City University, compounds the need for additional measures to be implemented to combat this scourge as a matter of priority.

According to the study – only 1 in 3 parents feel confident they can protect their children when online.

Parents concerns are revolving around risks such as cyberbullying, accessing pornographic content, online grooming, and generally spending too much time on the internet.

Children are going online at increasingly younger ages. If you combine this with the exponential growth in use of mobile phones it is creating immense challenges for parents . This latest study highlighted how new apps and social media platforms are coming on to the market all the time and being targeted at children as young as nine.

Meanwhile, a second report out today confirmed that one in 10 children in Ireland saying they have been cyberbullied.

Both reports, being released to coincide with Safer Internet Day tomorrow, call for more parent education around digital technologies and their use.

Meanwhile, the Survey of Parental Attitudes, conducted last month among parents of children aged nought to 18, found that parents do employ a range of strategies to try to protect their children, the most common being limiting the screen time.

However, there has been a significant drop in the level of direct supervision and monitoring of children’s use of the internet over the past five years.

Today, only 54pc of parents say that their children can access the internet from a public space in their home, such as the living room – down from the 76pc reported in the last such survey in 2012.

This is mainly because children are now much more likely to use a hand-held device, such as a smartphone, than a PC, and can easily take it out of sight.

While 53% are happy about how they monitor their children’s use of the internet (down from 67pc in 2012) 40% admit  it is easy for their children to use the internet without their knowledge.

As such, and as the report suggests, I believe there is clear need for additional support for parents – such as a national one-stop shop for example – where parents and professionals could get more age-specific advice.



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