How can I keep my kids safe online?

6 Sep 2023

Image: © Syda Productions/

The latest episode of For Tech’s Sake examines how parents can help their children navigate the online world with the help of Dr Colman Noctor.

The latest stats from CyberSafeKids revealed some stark details about children’s internet usage.

Published yesterday (5 September), the report, which surveyed 5,000 children, showed that 93pc of 8–12-year-olds own a personal smart device, 84pc have their own social media or instant messaging account and almost a third (31pc) have unrestricted access to the online world.

Moving to the 12-16-year-old category, 100pc of those surveyed have their own smart device, and 40pc said they had experienced online bullying. According to teachers surveyed for the report, 74pc said online safety was a significant issue in their school, and 45pc said they did not think they had sufficient knowledge or skills to effectively deliver online safety messages.

The level of access to the online world among these age groups is extremely high, given that most of popular social media sites require users to be at least 13 years of age before they can register.

Furthermore, the age of digital consent in Ireland is 16, meaning online service providers such as social media platforms that rely on consent as the legal basis for processing data must obtain parental consent if the user is under 16.

But the CyberSafeKids report clearly shows that many children under 16 and even children under 13 have unfettered access to the online world and the majority have their own devices and social media profiles to peruse. So how can parents keep children safe online?

To explore this topic in more detail, For Tech’s Sake hosts Jenny Darmody and Elaine Burke spoke to child and adolescent psychotherapist Dr Colman Noctor.

He said that when parents are trying to figure out how to keep their children safe, it’s important to remember that there are both good and bad sides to technology and it should be treated like having a healthy, balanced food diet.

“I think there’s time spent and time well spent on technology. Technology for me is a bit like food, you have good foods and not-so-good foods and it’s not about living a doughnut-free life. We all had to have those Candy Crush moments … but if you’re having doughnuts for every meal, then you’re going to come into difficulties,” he said.

“We don’t judge a child’s diet by how much time they sit eating at a table, we judged it by the content that they consume.”

He also said that the education piece is important because regulating the internet fully can be a challenging concept – although that’s not to say that platforms couldn’t do more.

“Some of the outreach stuff, I would view is very tokenistic and has very little weight. When you don’t increase the robustness of age verification, is anything that you say difficult? But for me, the internet’s unregulatable [nature] is its secret sauce. That’s the issue that makes it most attractive,” he said.

“There’s lots of people who started with these kind of walled garden social networks for small children. They don’t take off because they’re not an adult-free space.”

Check out the full episode with Dr Colman Noctor and subscribe for more.

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