Tuesday 27 January 2015

Smartphones 'putting youth at greater risk online'

Katherine Donnelly, Education Editor

Published 11/02/2014 | 02:30

Thomas Mernagh, Thurles, Emmet Farrell, Drimnagh Castle and Adam O'Dwyer and Lia Grogan from Thurles, showcasing their work at the launch of Safer Internet Day
Chantelle Khan, Shonagh Barrett and Elysia Flynn of Bishopstown CS, Cork, with singer Gavin James. Picture: ANDRES POVEDA

The growing use of mobile devices, such as smartphones, is exposing children to more online risks such as bullying and harmful or sexually explicit content.

Smartphones are now the most used devices for young people going online in Ireland, with 40pc of nine to 16-year olds and more than 60pc of teenagers owning one, according to new report.

Of those, 35pc use it daily to go online, while 27pc own a tablet and use it on a daily basis to access the internet.

The report provides the initial findings from Ireland on the EU's Net Children Go Mobile study, aimed at exploring young people's use of mobile internet technologies and the consequences for their welfare online.

Bullying remains the most harmful risky experience, with 26pc of girls experiencing it, compared with 17pc of boys.

Sexual risks are second, and the report's disturbing findings include that 10pc of 13- to 14-year-olds and 22pc of 15- to 16-year-olds have received sexual messages online. Among older teenagers, 47pc had seen sexual images online, and about half of these said they were upset by the experience. Another risk that young people encounter is seeing potentially harmful user-generated content.

The study found that 35pc of 13- to 16-year-olds were exposed to some form of harmful content such as hate messages (15pc), anorexic or bulimic content (14pc), self-harm sites (9pc), sites discussing suicide (8pc), and sites where people share their experiences with drugs (7pc).

However, while smartphones and tablet users encounter more risks, they don't report more harmful experiences

Most internet use is at home, with 63pc of children going online at least once a day, at home, and 46pc accessing the internet from their bedroom on a daily basis.

Among the other findings of the report, launched to mark Safer Internet Day, is that 20pc of children say that they have been bothered by something on the internet in the past year, up from 11pc since 2011.

Dr Brian O'Neill, of Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and Chair of the Government's Internet Content Governance Advisory Group, who led the project in Ireland, said new strategies may be needed to ensure young people's safety and welfare in a "post-desktop internet environment".

Launching the report, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn also unveiled a new anti-cyberbullying kit for second-level schools for use in Social Personal and Health education (SPHE) classes. The kit challenges young people to find new ways of using the internet and social media and to stand up to bullying and show solidarity with victims.

Irish Independent

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