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Dublin: 9 °C Sunday 19 May, 2019
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5% of children are in everyday contact with a stranger online

There are calls for parents, educators and the government needed to be doing more to promote a safe internet environment.

Almost 20% of children spend over 4 hours online.
Almost 20% of children spend over 4 hours online.
Image: Shutterstock/Karen Bosma-Winnubst

MOST NATIONAL SCHOOL teachers do not feel equipped to educate children on internet safety.

This is according to CyberSafeIreland, the children’s internet safety charity, which also found that 28% of children surveyed are in contact with a stranger either occasionally or every day through online gaming or accepting social media requests from strangers.

Whilst many connections are harmless, there are cases where the contact with strangers is of significant concern, particularly for the 5% of children who are in contact with a stranger on a daily basis.

Data from CyberSafeIreland’s annual report published this week indicates that whilst most of the primary school teachers do cover internet safety in one form or another (84%), the majority of them (64%) said that they did not feel sufficiently resourced to effectively deliver educational messages on internet safety. All of those surveyed said that they felt that bringing in external experts was beneficial.

The report also said that 19% of young children are spending more than four hours per day online.

Alex Cooney, co-founder and CEO of CyberSafeIreland said:

It is concerning how many children are making contact with strangers on the Internet and the volume of time that some young children are spending online each day is not healthy.

“Teachers in our national schools are telling us that they don’t feel adequately resourced to deliver key messages – online safety education needs to be addressed on an on-going basis and not just during Safer Internet Day or once-off events.”

He added that parents, educators and the government needed to be doing more to protect child safety.

Here are some tips from CyberSafetyIreland on how parents can encourage internet safety:

  • Start the conversation now. As soon as your child shows interest in your phone or tablet, talk about what’s okay and not okay to do online in an age appropriate manner. Talk to your kids about what they do and see online as often as possible.
  • Do your research. Check out the apps and games that your child is using or wants to use. Download it yourself or watch videos on YouTube about it and see what functionality it has. Look, in particular, at whether it has a chat facility, how to apply safety/privacy settings and how to report abuse.
  • Agree the rules. Put appropriate boundaries in place and apply them consistently, eg, where they can use their devices, who can be on their friends lists, what behaviour is acceptable, and not to share location. Most importantly keep an eye on what your children are doing online.

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