Wednesday 21 February 2018

One in four children in contact with stranger online - study reveals

A new study has revealed startling figures.
A new study has revealed startling figures.
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

More than one in four children are in contact with a stranger online, according to a new report.

The contact is made either through acceptance of social media requests or by getting involved in multi-player online games, according to a survey by the charity, CyberSafeIreland.

“Whilst many connections are harmless, there are cases where the contact with strangers is of significant concern, particularly for the five per cent of children who are in contact with a stranger on a daily basis,” said CyberSafeIreland chief executive Alex Cooney.

“The majority of children we speak to are under the age of 13 and, despite age restrictions on apps and games, most of them are extremely active online.

“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, said Ms Cooney

“Unfortunately for all its positive aspects, the internet presents increasing opportunities for sexual predators to meet and groom children online, “ she said.

The findings are based on a survey of about 240 third, fourth, fifth and sixth class children in more than 40 primary schools in Dublin and Wicklow.

They found that almost one in five (19 per cent) of the children spend in excess of four hours online a day.

While children are spending increasing amounts of time online. CyberSafeIreland also report that two in three – 64pc – of teachers do not feel equipped to teach internet safety.

Other findings include

* Snapchat and Instagram were the most popular instant messaging and social media apps along with YouTube

* At least one child in 82 per cent  of the workshops CybersafeIreland provided was playing adult rated games.

The charity prioritises reaching children from schools in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) programme, which comprised 68 per cent of schools visited.

Ms Cooney said that while teachers valued the type of external expertise that a charity like CyberSafeIreland provides, online safety education needed  to be addressed on an on-going basis and not just during Safer Internet Day or once-off events.

She said the Government needed to give greater priority to teaching internet safety to children.

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