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Online Safety

30% of children told they can go online 'whenever they want', survey finds

One school who spoke to the charity had an incident where an older child sent sexual images into a snapchat group with younger kids in it.

A NEW SURVEY of 1600 8-12 year olds in Ireland has found that 30% of children are told they can “go online whenever they want’, and 50% of children feel that they “spend too much time online”. 

The survey by CyberSafeKids, an online safety charity, was carried out from September to January of this year in collaboration with the National Parents Council, to mark Safer Internet Day. 

The charity is also launching its ‘Same Rules Apply’ campaign in order to highlight the need to approach parenting children online in the same way we approach parenting them offline. 

One school that the charity worked with, St Kevin’s National School in Dublin, has seen a number of worrying incidents around online safety in recent years. 

Dr Barry O’ Leary, the Principal, said that there was recently a case in the school involving a Snapchat group that some senior class pupils were members of. 

A child from outside of the class was added to the group after a disagreement broke out. 

The older child sent some inappropriate messages to the group – including some sexual images – which O’Leary said was “disturbing” to many of the younger children. 

“It came to my attention because one or two of the children said something to their parents and the parents came to me, but in practice, the parents actually resolved this situation themselves.

“But one child who did not tell her mum about it, said she didn’t do so because she thought she might be in trouble for viewing the material, and in some instances, was not sure how she would even describe the content to her mum,” he further explained. 

While Principal O’Leary said he was pleased that the parent community addressed this incident as soon as it arose, he added that the “concern remains about the kind of content kids are being exposed to online”. 

He further urged parents to proactively engage with their children about their online lives and to put clear boundaries in place. 

The CyberSafeKids survey further found that 22% of children have seen something online in the last year that they “wouldn’t want their parents to know about”. 

Meanwhile a quarter of the children surveyed said that they were not allowed to go online before bedtime, 43% said they weren’t allowed to chat or game with strangers, and almost a third said that they were online allowed online at certain times. 

When compared by gender, the survey founds that a higher percentage of boys than girls had no rules for going online. 

25% of the children said that the find it hard to “switch off” from games and apps, and 22% said that they “waste a lot of time online”. 

Alex Cooney, the CEO of CyberSafeKids said that its main concern is around unsupervised access to the internet “in places like bedrooms, with doors shut”. 

“This can leave them vulnerable to stumbling across highly inappropriate content or being contacted by strangers – in a place that should be safe and protected 

“Worryingly, only 18% of the 8-12 yr olds surveyed said they ‘weren’t allowed devices in their bedroom,” he further said. 

Cooney added that 41% of the children said that going online was a mostly positive experience for them, but he questioned what kind of experience the rest of the children were having. 

“Our advice to parents is to have ongoing conversations with your children about their online lives, and to regularly monitor what they’re seeing and doing online.

“We need a shift in mindset on how we approach the challenges of parenting online, which is why we’re launching this campaign today,” he said. 

There are online resources available for parents and also a digital parenting workshop with CyberSafeKids at 1 pm today, as part of Safer Internet Day. 

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