Cyber Safety

In this year which marks the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, there is no doubt that the ‘digital landscape’ has changed enormously in recent years, in particular for the younger members of our community for whom a world without smartphones is unimaginable. This fact was brought home to me recently in a conversation with some 9 and 10 year olds who incredulously wondered how on earth we managed to survive without mobile phones! And while the world has undoubtedly benefited from the advances in mobile technology, and children have unprecedented opportunities to learn, to create and to interact in new ways, the advent of smartphones, social media and increased access to technology of all kinds does bring increased risks for young people.

CyberSafeIreland published its second annual report yesterday, September 13th.

During the last year CyberSafeIreland has spoken directly to 4,893 children aged between 8 and 13 and 885 parents across Leinster and has made some disturbing discoveries in regard to children’s behaviour online. According to the report:

  • Despite age restrictions of 13 and older on many social media services, the vast majority of children under 13 that we have met already had a significant online presence
  • 16% of the children surveyed spent in excess of 4 hours online a day.
  • 22% of the children surveyed were in online contact with strangers. Most of these (14%) reported that they were in contact at least once a week and 6% of this number every day.
  • Nearly a third (32%) of children have either never spoken to their parents/guardians about online safety or have not done so in the last year.
  • In almost two-thirds (64%) of our workshops with 8-10 year olds, at least one child was playing adult rated games.
  • 12% of all children reached had shown themselves in YouTube videos.

The report outlines what it considers to be the risks to young people online, and why they are particularly vulnerable, and is well worth reading by parents in order to keep abreast of developments and safety issues. In fact, the report stresses that, “children and young people need the guidance of teachers and parents to learn to manage and cope with this added dimension to modern life” and that, “parental engagement in, and supervision of, their children’s online lives is an extremely important strategy in mitigating these risks”.  At one point the CyberSafeIreland report quotes the ISPCC’s assertion that online safety is the “child protection issue of our time” given that there has been an increase in younger children contacting their Childline service with online safety concerns.

Another significant finding of the report is that,  “Almost 70% of teachers surveyed reported that they do not feel sufficiently resourced to effectively deliver educational messages on Internet safety; this is up from 64% in 2015/16”, and the report  recognises that “both parents and teachers need far more support in order to protect children from online risk, and that children, as avid users of technology, need to be empowered from a young age to use the Internet both safely and responsibly”.

Read the full report here:

http://cybersafeireland.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/CyberSafeIreland-Annual-Report-2017.pdf 

There is also a good article on explaining their digital footprint to your child at the following link:

http://zeeko.ie/dealing-with-peer-pressure-in-the-digital-world/explaining-digital-footprint-child-2