One child in five surfs net via mobile devices
New challenges for worried parents
ONE in five children is using a handheld device such as an iPod to surf the internet, presenting parents with a new challenge in keeping track of what youngsters are viewing online.
The EU Kids Online survey examined the activities of children aged nine to 16 who use the internet regularly. It found that, within that group, the Irish used it less frequently than children in other countries.
But 21pc of the Irish go online on devices such as an iPod Touch or Sony PSP -- double the EU average. About 28pc go online from a mobile phone, in line with the EU average.
Parental involvement is particularly evident in Ireland, with 93pc practising some form of mediation. Parents in Ireland are more restrictive in their approach to their child's online activity -- 94pc compared with an EU average of 83pc -- in the form of setting rules to manage their internet use.
Aine Lynch, chief executive of the National Parents Council Primary, which runs a helpline and parenting course in internet safety, said it pointed to a need for parents "to be having a different type of conversation with children than they did three or five years ago".
Other trends identified in the survey, which included interviews with 1,000 Irish children, plus one of their parents, earlier this year, include:
- The Irish are the least likely to publish their address or phone number on the profile -- 7pc compared with an EU average of 14pc.
- Use in the bedroom is relatively low in Ireland, at 35pc compared with 48pc across the EU.
- Children in Ireland are less likely to encounter pornography, bullying, sending/receiving sexual messages and going to meetings with contacts first met online than most of their counterparts abroad.
- Some 9pc of Irish nine to 16 year olds have seen sexual images online in the previous 12 months, and 4pc experienced online bullying, ranking 21st of the 23 countries for both. Among the Irish, 3pc of children had gone to meet someone face to face whom they first met online (second lowest).
According to the report, the relation between risk and harm, as perceived by children, varies by country in a complex way.
In Bulgaria, one in five children has been exposed to sexual images online but fewer were bothered by what they saw.
By contrast, only one in 10 Irish children has seen sexual images online, but nearly half of those who had seen it were bothered by it.
The more children use the internet, the more likely they are to encounter risk, but the study indicates that more usage facilitates the development of digital literacy and safety skills.
Simon Grehan, internet safety co-ordinator at the National Centre for Technology in Education, cautioned about not overstating the potential for harm of the internet and warned it could lead to children being denied the opportunities so obviously afforded by new technologies.
Brian O'Neill, head of the School of Media at Dublin Institute of Technology, said children were going online younger than ever before and the survey showed that the youngest children were those who find it hardest to cope with upsetting online experiences.