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Two thirds of children contacted by a stranger while gaming online, according to new survey

The survey was conducted by charity Cybersafe Ireland.

Image: Shutterstock/milatiger

OVER 60% OF children have been contacted by a stranger online while gaming, according to a new survey from CyberSafe Ireland. 

The charity, which works on keeping young people safe online, has warned that a significant number of children are talking to and engaging with strangers online. 

The survey, which gathered responses from 3,764 children aged between eight and 12, found that 61% of children report being contacted by a stranger in a game. 

It found that this was an experience reported by 40% of boys and 22% of girls. 

One third of children also game with people they don’t know in real life. 

Many children also described coming across content online that upset or scared them, with 32% acknowledging that some kind of online content had bothered them. Of those who had seen such content, 20% failed to report it to a parent or trusted adult. 

The charity also reports that almost 30% of children have friends or followers they don’t know in real life, while 65% of children are signed up to social media platforms despite minimum age restrictions being set at 13. 

This represents an 8% increase on last year. 

‘We know that asking children to never chat to people they don’t know in the context of an online game can be a challenging message to get across, since many see it as part of the game and entirely normal,” said Philip Arneill, CyberSafe Ireland’s Head of Education and Innovation. 

“Whilst we would always encourage kids to never engage online with people they don’t know offline, the key message needs to be about never sharing personal information with strangers online and to talk to a trusted adult if anything or anyone they encounter online makes them feel scared or uncomfortable.”

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“We must also put more pressure on the online platforms to promote a safer user culture, by adopting a ‘safety by design’ approach,” he added. 

The survey also found that 93% of children owned a smart device of some kind. The charity is now calling for a national campaign to raise awareness of how children can stay safe online. 

CyberSafe Ireland CEO, Alex Cooney, said: “The onus is on all of us to ensure children are better prepared for their online lives. We need education, we need public awareness campaigns and we need proper regulation of the online service providers.”

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