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Survey reveals more than 40% of children are talking to strangers online

Children in schools in disadvantaged areas were 29% more likely to talk to strangers every day.

43% of children say they are talking to strangers online.
43% of children say they are talking to strangers online.
Image: Shutterstock/Vasin Lee

A NEW SURVEY of almost 4,000 children has found that 43% of those aged between eight and 13-years-old are talking to people they have never met in real life on social media and gaming platforms. 

CyberSafe Ireland surveyed 3,867 children and found that 92% of them owned their own smart device and were active online. 

It found that 43% of those surveyed were speaking to strangers online, with a third of them speaking to strangers every day or at least once a week.  

Although 99% of children surveyed were under the age of 13, which is the minimum age required to sign up to social media sites, many reported being active on the platforms. 

Snapchat was the most popular with 33% of children surveyed having an account, WhatsApp was the second most popular app at 28%. 

Some 23% reported having an Instagram account and another 21% reported having a TikTok account. 

CyberSafe Ireland’s chief executive Alex Cooney said: “The online service providers benefit so much from their users, without having to take the full degree of responsibility that they should.”

“So much more needs to be done and given the number of kids who are active online, time is of the essence,” she added.

More than 1 in 10 of children aged eight to 13-years old who took part in this survey said they spent more than 4 hours a day online – this included 12% of 8-year-olds and 15% of 12-year-olds. 

Gaming was another issue raised by the charity as 29% said they played over-18 games, rising to 47% for boys and falling to 12% for girls. More than a third of 8-year-olds said they played over-18 games. 

Teachers

The effect of online-activity among children is having a direct impact on school life as more than half of teachers – 59% – saying they are dealing with online safety incidences in the classroom. 

Some 10% of those said they dealt with more than five incidences in the last year. 

Of the teachers who spoke to the charity for the survey, 52% said they did not feel equipped to teach online safety messages in the classroom. 

Philip Arnell, head of education and innovation at CyberSafe Ireland said it is important that parents are equipping children with necessary skills to stay safe online. 

“As a teacher with 20 years’ experience I know how kids this age like to spend their time but it’s astonishing to think that 12% of the children surveyed spend 4 or more hours per day online: that amount of daily screen time equates to a total of 61 days each year,” he said.

“While technology undoubtedly brings social and educational benefits, it is vital that screen time is monitored and that it is balanced appropriately with all the other aspects that contribute to a healthy lifestyle.”

Children in schools in disadvantaged areas were 29% more likely to talk to strangers every day and 42% more likely to be online for more than four hours a day. 

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