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Survey reveals the worrying online habits of our children

SOME teenagers stay up all night using the internet and their mobile phones to stay in contact with friends because parents aren't monitoring their behaviour, a new survey shows.

The research, commissioned from an expert on cyberbullying by the Irish Independent, also found a small number of children who said they were willing to meet strangers in person that they had initially met online.

The behaviour of children in modern Ireland is also summed up by the fact that many have hundreds of 'friends' on social media sites who they don't actually know.

And some children send up to 500 text messages to school friends every single day.

The research, involving almost 400 children, was conducted by Niall Mulrine who runs cybersafetyadvice.com.

He has given talks to children, teachers and parents at more than 100 primary and secondary schools throughout Ireland in the past 18 months.

"We are allowing children to access social media sites when some of them don't have basic social skills for life and that is a worrying development," said Mr Mulrine.

"Facebook and Twitter remain the most popular sites for young people, but increasingly children are communicating in BlackBerry Messenger and on iChat.

"They talk in groups and often it's a free-for-all; anything goes and that's where most of the cyber-bullying takes place."

Mr Mulrine said his survey – conducted over the past five months – also found 12-year-olds who had online 'friends' who were over 18 and whom they had never met.

"I met one 12-year-old boy who said he would meet a stranger in a hotel room if he was asked," said Mr Mulrine.


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"Some children agreed that this would be okay to do. I had to explain that the stranger may not be a 12-year-old but someone pretending to be that age."

A quarter of the children surveyed had their Facebook profiles open to the public, but 17pc didn't actually know what privacy settings they had.

"The good news is that 57pc had private settings which showed that they and their parents had taken some sort of action," said Mr Mulrine.

Some 40pc of 12- to 18-year-olds sent at least 50 texts a day, the survey showed. Another 11pc sent between 200 and 250 texts a day, whilst three students admitted sending 500 or more.

He said the impact of modern technology on young people and their education was far-reaching. "More than a third of the people I spoke to were on their phones or laptops after midnight.

"Five of the children admitted being online until 6am, involved in all-night chats and two were on until 7am.

There is a simple solution: turn off broadband at night.

Parents can get more advice at www.cybersafetyadvice

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