A survey from CyberSafeIreland shows that more discussion about online safety with young children is needed.
To mark Safer Internet Day (5 February), CyberSafeIreland has released a survey examining the online habits of more than 1,200 children aged between eight and 10.
While the internet presents a vast array of opportunities for children, from education to fun, there are unfortunately major safety issues that come with its connective power.
Speaking with strangers
The survey found that 40pc of children in this age bracket are speaking to strangers online in some capacity, with almost a third of them speaking to strangers every day or at least once a week.
Looking at length of time spent online, 10pc of children are online for more than four hours daily and almost a quarter of them are playing games marketed towards over-18s. One in five children have appeared in a YouTube video.
CEO of CyberSafeIreland, Alex Cooney, noted that “the vast majority of eight-year-olds have their own smart device”, adding that CyberSafeIreland has launched a dedicated session for third-class students this school year.
The charity is also developing a range of resources for parents of younger children “to help guide their decision-making around key issues like when to get that first device for their child”.
Parents need to engage
The importance of engagement by parents in their children’s online lives was also outlined in the research. CyberSafeIreland is encouraging parents to begin making informed decisions about the online lives of their children when they are still young.
The organisation has created a set of online resources on healthy and safe use of technology, with a key focus on parents of children under the age of 10. A flyer with tips on introducing children to online life was also sent to 40 Early Start centres in time for Safer Internet Day.
The centres are part of the Early Start programme, which focuses on children from lower socioeconomic status households who are between the ages of three and five. Research shows that children from these backgrounds are more vulnerable to online risks, due to lower levels of parental awareness.
Mick Moran, board director of CyberSafeIreland, highlighted the risks that children can be exposed to online, such as exploitation and abuse. “We need to work together to find meaningful solutions and today is a reminder of our joint responsibility to empower children to protect themselves and therefore to prevent online crime in the first place.”