herald

Thursday 19 July 2018

One third of Irish children chatting to strangers online

CybersafeIreland chief executive Alex Cooney
CybersafeIreland chief executive Alex Cooney

One in three Irish children are in regular contact with a stranger online, according to a shock new survey.

A third of eight to 13-year-olds rarely or never talk to their parents about online safety.

The findings come from a survey of 1,500 primary pupils by the internet safety charity, CyberSafeIreland, conducted from September to November 2017.

If the figures from the sample are representative of the total population in that age bracket - about 300,000 - it would amount to thousands at similar risk.

"All children in this age group are potentially vulnerable, but those who are online without parental engagement are particularly vulnerable" said CybersafeIreland chief executive Alex Cooney.

She said of the group going online without parental engagement, 34pc were in regular contact with a stranger while 50pc used social media and messaging apps that are meant to be inaccessible to under-13s.

The survey also found that 67pc of children surveyed own a smartphone, 28pc are spending more than two hours a day online with 69pc using of social media and messaging apps like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat

The figures are published to coincide with Safer Internet Day, today, and come with a call from CybersafeIreland for a national campaign to raise awareness among parents and teachers about online risks.

Guidance

The charity provides expert guidance to primary schools, children and to parents.

Cliona Curley, the body's programme director, said: "We simply cannot continue to have this enormous gap between what children are doing online and what parents know and understand about their children's online lives.

"We must educate both children and parents to manage the many risks that children are exposed to online."

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