Sunday 17 December 2017

Parents warned of online threat as teens arrange to meet strangers

Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

ONE in 10 young teenagers has engaged in potentially dangerous behaviour online such as arranging to meet up with strangers.

Parents may be outwitted by their tech-savvy offspring when it comes to web matters – as half of children and Irish teenagers admitted to wiping their browser history to hide what they were doing online.

Almost a quarter of teenagers have sought out internet pornography, while a third have looked up simulated violence on websites, according to a new study.

Parents have been urged to inform their children about the potential dangers of their online activity and discuss the possible long-lasting impacts of their online behaviour.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who has three children, said parents must be vigilant concerning their children's activity online.

Mr Kenny said technology was an important "building block" for economic recovery but the safety of children was "all-important".

Paul Walsh, vice-president of engineering at internet security company McAfee, highlighted the "huge gap" between teenagers' online activity and their parents' awareness levels. He warned that many parents would be "shocked" by the behaviour of teenagers online.

"Having grown up in the online world, teens are often more online savvy than their parents, making it difficult for parents to provide the necessary guidance," he said.


Many parents were well aware of the dangers of data and identity theft, and the full-disclosure by teenagers of details such as their home address, school or mobile phone number online has caused them deep concerns.

A high number of parents, over 84pc, said they had discussed online safety with their children. Yet nearly two-thirds had not opted to install parental controls on relevant internet devices.

Some 57pc of parents stated they trusted their child not to access inappropriate materials online, yet a quarter of teens admitted deliberately hunting out sexually explicit images and videos.

Half admitted they had visited websites they knew their parents wouldn't approve of, while many said they had illegally downloaded pirate music or movies online.

A third have accessed nude images or pornography online accidentally by clicking adverts and on YouTube.

A further 26pc looked up 'sexual topics' online, according to the new research, commissioned by McAfee, surveying 200 parents and 200 teenagers.

Among the risky behaviours highlighted were one in 10 young people posting a revealing picture of themselves online. Some 11pc met up with someone they had met online. The startling trends online have seen 12pc making comments on social media – leaving a permanent digital footprint – and later regretting it.

Forensic psychologist Dr Maureen Griffin has warned that secondary school pupils are being surrounded by sexual imagery and are being pressurised to send provocative messages.

McAfee's online safety programme will see the firm next year teach more than 10,000 children how to navigate the online world safely.

Irish Independent

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