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'It should be a wake-up call': One in three children see upsetting content online

Survey shows lack of parental control as kids log on at will

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Children in Ireland are at growing risk from the online world as increasing numbers of eight to 12-year-olds access social media, where they can be bullied or contacted by strangers

Children in Ireland are at growing risk from the online world as increasing numbers of eight to 12-year-olds access social media, where they can be bullied or contacted by strangers

Children in Ireland are at growing risk from the online world as increasing numbers of eight to 12-year-olds access social media, where they can be bullied or contacted by strangers

Children in Ireland are at growing risk from the online world as increasing numbers of eight to 12-year-olds access social media, where they can be bullied or contacted by strangers.

More than two in three of them are now engaging with platforms such as Snapchat and TikTok, which are supposed to be restricted to teenagers. The figure is up from last year.

Their habits may come as no surprise, as a new survey also shows that almost all eight to 12-year-olds now have access to a "smart" device, such as a mobile phone, tablet or gaming console.

And many log on at will. According to the survey, when asked when they were allowed to go online, more than one in four (27pc) said that they could "go online whenever they want".

Worryingly, one in three had seen something online that upset them in the past year, and while most (57pc) had not had such an experience, there was another 11pc who were not sure.

Three in five (59pc) of those who had been upset didn't tell a parent or trusted adult.

The trends are highlighted in a survey released by the CyberSafeIreland charity, which says they must act as a "wake-up call" to the new government.

The survey was conducted among 2,300 children in 20 primary schools, between September and December, and the results are released to mark Safer Internet Day today.

The need for parents to be vigilant and keep abreast of developments is underlined in the finding that, in recent months, TikTok has surpassed Snapchat as the most popular app with eight to 12-year-olds, with 35pc using it. It is more popular among girls than boys.

TikTok is followed by Snapchat (31pc), WhatsApp (27pc), Instagram (20pc) and Twitch (14pc). They have a minimum age restriction of 13, apart from WhatsApp, where the minimum age for access is supposed to be 16.

The rocketing popularity of TikTok has led to being added to App Watch on the DCU Anti-Bullying Centre's Tacklebullying.ie website. This site offers a guide to smartphone apps and their features and how to increase privacy and report content.

The main findings from the CyberSafeIreland survey include:

:: 93pc own their own smart device - 57pc own a tablet, 53pc a gaming console and 39pc a smartphone;

:: 68pc are active on social media, 10pc up on last year;

:: 31pc have seen or experienced something online that upset them in past year;

:: 19pc fail to tell a parent or trusted adult when they encounter negative material;

:: 22pc have seen something online that they wouldn't want their parents to know about.

CyberSafeIreland chief executive Alex Cooney said the fact that almost a third of young children had been upset by material encountered online should be a wake-up call to whoever emerges in government after the General Election and that "we must get to grips with children's internet use and access".

"There have been plenty of encouraging promises made in parties' election manifestos, but the proof of their commitment will be seeing these translated into a Programme for Government with clear action points and timelines to both protect and empower our children in the online world," she said.

CyberSafeIreland is marking Safer Internet Day by launching two new videos made by sixth class children from St Kevin's NS, Sallynoggin, Dublin, which are designed to encourage discussion in the classroom around healthy use of technology.

It is one of a number of new educational resources being made available to help teachers, parents and children to promote online safety.

The Department of Education's Webwise initiative is launching a programme today called Connected, which will introduce students to key areas of digital media literacy, and will highlight the importance of digital well-being, including resilience and respect in the digital world.

All second-level schools will get a free copy of the Connected programme pack and user guide.

Irish Independent