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One in eight children have met up with a stranger they first met online, new report finds


The report found 40pc of 9-10 year-olds own smartphones with access to the internet.

The report found 40pc of 9-10 year-olds own smartphones with access to the internet.

The report found 40pc of 9-10 year-olds own smartphones with access to the internet.

Close to one in eight children have met up with people they did not know in real life but had only encountered online, a new report regarding online safety has shown.

More than 90 of the 765 children (12pc) interviewed stated they have gone on to meet in-person contacts they had first made online, but only a quarter of this number of parents (3pc) say they are aware of this.

The new report from the National Advisory Council for Online Safety also found that more than 25pc of 9-10 year-olds use social media, with Snapchat and TikTok the platforms used most widely by this age group.

This is despite both platforms having a minimum age requirement of 13. These age requirements are not stringently upheld and are very easy to get around.

“There are very real issues with children accessing content that was not designed for their age group at all,” Minister Catherine Martin admitted at the launch of the report in TU Dublin on Monday.

Prof Brian O’Neill, who was involved in the creation of the report, said the issue of age verification on social media was a “very live one” and added that TikTok had taken measures to close accounts it had determined to be in breach of age limit restrictions.

Nearly half (41pc) of 9-10 year-olds report owning their own smartphone with access to the internet, while 44pc of them own a tablet device and 47pc a games console. Over 90pc of 15-17 year-olds own a smartphone, research found.

Minister Catherine Martin described the report as a “powerful piece of research” which will be used to inform further policy decisions around how online safety, for adults and children, can be improved upon.

Minister Martin said the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill, when it is passed through the houses of the Oireachtas and signed into law, will “signal that the era of self-regulation will be over” for social media companies. The Minister said she aims to have the Bill before the Oireachtas before Christmas and has “ring-fenced” €5m to “hit the ground running on recommnedations made by an Oireachtas committee in the respect of the Bill.

“These platforms will be held accountable and there will be sanctions there of €20m or 10pc of their turnover - whichever is the highest - compelling them to take action and if need be, blocking the online service in Ireland,” the Minister said following the launch of the report.

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One in five children (19pc) said they had seen inappropriate or disturbing videos and photos, while a similar number said they’d encountered cruelty to animals online. Thirteen percent have seen online sites where physical harm or self-harm is depicted.

Children spend an average of 2.1 hours online on weekdays and 3.4 hours online per day during weekends, with 62pc of children under the age of 17 using social media in Ireland.

Children reported a range of negative online experiences with 13pc of children saying they experienced something that upset them in some way, by making them feel uncomfortable, scared or that they shouldn’t have seen it.

People being nasty to each other (24pc) and bullying (22pc) stand out as the most mentioned things that upset young people. A quarter of all girls in the survey (26pc) listed people being nasty to each other as the issue that most frequently upsets them.

The report is the first of its kind to include research on how online safety issues affect adults, Minister Martin said. It found that those aged 15-17 have a higher internet skills score, on average, when compared to their parents. The average 15-17 year-old scored 8.7 out of 10 while parents scored an average of 7.9.

Six in ten adults say they trust most of the news they choose to read, and that news media do a good job in helping to distinguish fact from fiction. Just 25pc say that social media does a good job in helping the users distinguish fact from fiction.

Meanwhile, nearly one third (29pc) of over 65s say they almost never go online.

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