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Half of our teens are at risk from internet perverts

One in six secondary school children have met up with a stranger who they encountered online, it has been revealed.

A new study from a children's charity has shockingly revealed that children and teenagers were also putting themselves at risk by allowing anyone to view their social network pages and profiles.

Those most in danger are thought to be youths who access the internet in their room rather than from a communal room at home, as they are more likely to physically meet their online contacts.

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) consulted with over 18,000 primary and secondary school pupils as well as young people not in the formal education system for their survey on children's use of the internet.

The study revealed that just under half of the children in secondary education and youths of a similar age outside the formal education system, revealed they accessed the internet in their bedroom.



predators

It also showed that these students were more likely to meet their online contacts in person and that over 2,000 (16pc) of the secondary group surveyed had physically met a stranger they talked to on the internet.

The survey also discovered that, despite many warnings about potential predators and bullying on the net, a significant proportion of children put themselves at risk by allowing strangers to access their information and pictures.

Figures show that a third of primary school children did not know how to keep their Facebook, Twitter or Bebo accounts private, while nearly a quarter (24pc) of secondary students reported that they did not use privacy settings.

One in 10 children from the older group also admitted to giving personal details such as email addresses, mobile numbers and photos to someone online that they had never met in person.

CEO of the ISPCC, Ashley Balbirnie, felt the research's findings were "truly terrifying" as they indicated that many Irish children were leaving themselves open to paedophiles.

"To hear that so many young people, despite the threats lurking online, are spending hours in their bedrooms, unsupervised, giving out personal information and in some cases organising to meet up with strangers is absolutely horrific," Ms Balbirnie said.

"The figures clearly show that young people are not taking necessary and available safety precautions while online and leaving themselves open to some extremely dangerous situations."

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald said he had asked his department to look into children's online safety and the impact of modern technology on their welfare as part of the new National Children's Strategy.

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