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Concerns raised over child safety and privacy online

A study commissioned by the ISPCC found that one-third of primary school children did not know how to keep their social network account private, while one in six secondary students had met someone in person after meeting them online.

Image: San Jose Library via Creative Commons

A NEW STUDY commissioned by the ISPCC has found that one in six secondary school students in Ireland has met, in person, someone they initially met online.

The survey involved 18,116 young people around Ireland aged from eight to 18. More than four out of ten (44 per cent) of respondents in the secondary school/youth category said they use the internet in their own bedroom, while a quarter of young people in this category said they did not use privacy settings.

Over a third of the primary school group said they did not how to keep their social network account private.

Of the older group, slightly over a quarter (26 per cent) said they or someone they knew had been bullied online or by phone, but less than one in ten said they had told anyone other than friends about the bullying. Around the same proportion of the younger group said they knew of such bullying, but 38 per cent said they had told their parents about it.

Among those who admitted meeting someone in person whom they had initially met online, a third said they met that person alone.

Responding to its findings about young people and their internet habits, the ISPCC said the level of adherence young people give to their safety online is a “cause for great concern”.

ISPCC CEO Ashley Balbirnie described some of the findings as “truly terrifying”:

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.

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.

Following the report’s publication, the ISPCC called for the introduction of legislation to monitor and address child abuse online, including combating peer-to-peer software which facilitates the distribution of child pornography and tougher sentences for child pornography crimes.

The organisation called for greater parental vigilance in the internet use of children and young people and urged parents to inform their children about privacy settings.

The ISPCC also reiterated its call for the introduction of a panic button for Facebook and other social networking sites.

Launching the report yesterday, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald commended the ISPCC for its commitment to consultations with children, and said that the report’s findings show the “threats and challenges posed by new technologies require a response from all of society”.

“I have asked my department to consider the impact on children for media and new technologies as part of the new National Children’s Strategy which is currently under preparation,” the minister added.

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