Wednesday 18 September 2019

Children are being used as 'guinea pigs' by app makers, charity warns

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Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Children are being used as guinea pigs by the developers of apps and digital products without regulation, a leading charity has warned.

The ISPCC said that young people were being failed by the State because tech firms were being left to regulate themselves.

The charity said it was worried about the consequences online abuse and sharing "harmful communications" was having on younger people.

It said "online safety is the child protection issue of our age".

ISPCC chief executive John Church told the Oireachtas Communications Committee that children are being used as guinea pigs. "We are in no doubt online safety is a major issue for children and young people in Ireland," Mr Church said.

"The ISPCC acknowledge that some companies and platforms are making efforts in this area but leaving it up to individual companies to decide how, to what extent and when they will prioritise children's protection online and remove harmful content is to fail children."

Mr Church said everyone had a role in keeping children safe online.

"Children have a right to be protected and this protection extends to being online. Being online is the public place where children frequent the most."

It came as Google officials told the committee that education alone was not enough to support children and tackle inappropriate behaviour and materials online.

Google public policy manager Ryan Meade said there is no "silver bullet" to address online issues facing children.

"We are highlighting the importance of education and I think educating and empowering users is one of the key planks of any strategy on online safety but I don't want to give the impression education alone would solve the online safety issue," he said.

"There is no one silver bullet to the online safety issue."

Irish Independent

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