News Editorial

Monday 22 September 2014

Editorial: Protecting children from online risks

Published 04/09/2014 | 02:30

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Cute Kid With Tablet
Understand your child’s device and what, when and how they can access the internet.

An EU 'Kids Online' report out this week highlights the benefits of the internet, alongside the need to ensure a safe environment for those using it.

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The report - authored by Dr Brian O'Neill of Dublin Institute of Technology and the Government's Internet Content Governance Advisory Group - noted that with greater levels of access to and use of social networking services, mobile apps and content-sharing platforms, there has been an upward trend in the risks to users, including hate messages, porn and cyberbullying.

Not only have the risks increased, but so have the numbers of children reporting harm, especially girls and older teens. Substantial minorities still lack basic skills in keeping safe online. Sexting or sex-texting - the sending of sexually explicit images or videos via digital means - is among those dangers.

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) rightly classifies "sexting" as sexual violence and deserves congratulations for responding with a module in its BodyRight awareness raising programme, which is used with young people in schools and other educational settings.

A tale of two seas and who we want to be

Europe contains two great seas lined by ancient countries; the much-loved Mediterranean and the often forgotten Baltic.

Countries such as France and Italy, which are dotted around the former, are struggling with recession, while others, such as Israel and Syria, are engaged in disputes that are costing thousands of lives.

Countries whose shores are lapped by the Baltic are different. Scandinavia, Finland, Poland, Estonia and the other Baltic states are enjoying an economic renaissance.

This revival has been hard won. Both the Nordic countries and the three Baltic states have endured gut-wrenching recessions in the past two decades.

Those recessions were triggered by the same sort of foolish lack of regulation and over borrowing that accompanied our own financial crisis.

First the Scandinavians, and then the three small Baltic states to their east, took the sort of drastic action that this country also took when faced with disaster.

Hard decisions were made, as were - inevitably - a few mistakes.

Those tough choices, which took decades to implement, ensured that Sweden, Denmark and Finland weathered the 2008 financial crisis reasonably well.

That's why it was encouraging to hear Finance Minister Michael Noonan say yesterday that he wanted Ireland to follow this model, rather than superficial fixes that have been common elsewhere in Europe.

We are a north European country that has all too often acted like a south European country. Now is the time to convince ourselves, and others, that this is the case.

This does not mean we must adopt Baltic-style social democracy, eat herring, obsess endlessly about design or get our writers to churn out high-quality thrillers.

It does mean that we have to be thorough and continue with the reform programme we have begun, but which remains far from complete. It also probably means a new focus on Scandinavian virtues, such as a good education and healthcare that works.

Most of all, it will mean the Baltic virtues of hard work, innovative companies that produce world-class goods and - most importantly of all - sound finances.

Irish Independent

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