Wednesday 28 September 2016

Children face growing dangers from internet

Published 05/12/2015 | 02:30

Thirteen years is almost a millennium, given the pace of change in technology. A review of policies and safety procedures does seem overdue
Thirteen years is almost a millennium, given the pace of change in technology. A review of policies and safety procedures does seem overdue

The internet has revolutionised interactivity, giving us extraordinary communications tools, but in the wrong hands these can be extremely dangerous.

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In its earlier, more innocent days, it was famously described as just a global form of passing notes around a classroom. But that has changed. Once again childcare experts have issued warnings about the increasingly sophisticated and insidious methods predators are using to groom and ensnare their victims.

They follow recent cases where children were targeted by paedophiles who posed as their peers, winning their trust and drawing them deeper into an ever more sinister web of deception and danger.

Children's Rights Alliance chief executive Tanya Ward would also like to see greater awareness of just how vulnerable children have become.

"I am a parent myself and what is very distressing about these cases is that someone is able to come into your home and prey on your child using the internet," she said.

While it is alarming that the incidence is increasing, it is also disturbing that abusers are often young people themselves.

Evidently we need to do a lot more to equip our children to protect themselves against the threat.

Social media outlets must also do everything within their power to protect the young and vulnerable.

Now Dublin Rape Crisis Centre chief executive Ellen O'Malley Dunlop has appealed for more to be done to understand how to prevent sexual assaults.

She has cited the fact that it is 13 years since the last 'Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland' report was compiled.

Such a lengthy lapse is indicative of a lack of awareness or resolve in coming to terms with the scale of the problem.

Thirteen years is almost a millennium, given the pace of change in technology. A review of policies and safety procedures does seem overdue.

We must reform council home waiting list system

Homelessness and the housing crisis have understandably dominated the headlines for much of the year.

So it comes as something of a surprise to learn that a significant number of people on council housing waiting lists are turning down the offer of a home on the grounds that they don't like the area. Environment Minister Alan Kelly may now review the provision of social housing.

Given that so many find themselves locked out of the property market due to the fact that they cannot afford to buy a home due to high deposit requirements and soaring prices, the notion that someone would actually reject a home on the grounds of personal preference seems extraordinary. Of course, some homes may be unsuitable, given a particular family's needs. In Dublin, where the housing shortage is most acute, a fifth of those offered a home turned it down in the past 12 months.

Obviously, the waiting list system must be revisited.

Dr Lorcan Sirr, a lecturer in housing, cautions against jumping to conclusions. He also counsels against simplifying the argument to: "we offer and they refuse, so therefore they're in the wrong".

We clearly need to know why so many are saying no to a home, and as Dr Sirr suggests, a complete overhaul of the list system makes good sense.

Irish Independent

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