Irish children’s charities stand to receive more than €5m in additional funds over the next five years through a new channel, ReassureMe.com, that aims to improve child safety online.
Up to 44pc of the proceeds from ReassureMe.com will be donated to 12 children charity partners, including Barretstown and Barnardos.
ReassureMe aims to provide guidance and tools to help parents create a safe and collaborative online environment for their children to explore the internet, in addition to raising funds for charitable causes. Currently, unsupervised computers risk children being exposed to internet bullying, inappropriate content and potentially dangerous online grooming attempts.
Despite the high broadband penetration in excess of 900,000 residential subscribers, Ireland lags behind other countries, with only 7pc using child-protection software.
The lack of parental involvement is a further concern, with 66pc of teenagers stating that their parents do nothing to limit or control their internet use. This trend of allowing children unsupervised internet access is also compounded by 40pc of parents across Europe admitting they do not monitor their children’s online movements or internet postings.
“Children’s safety needs to be a priority for all parents, regardless of it being online or off,” said Fergus Finlay, chief executive, Barnardos. “Unfortunately, rapid developments and the growth of the internet have overtaken awareness and actions by many parents.
“We now have a situation where many parents are now unaware of what their children are doing online and how to protect them. The launch of this service makes it simple for parents to safely control the online environment in which their children play and also has the double benefit of raising much-needed funds for the charities involved.”
The Child Safety Parental Control software tools allow parents to control, supervise and monitor internet and computer use by their children. As a hosted solution, children’s computer activities can also be accessed remotely from outside the home, eg, from a work computer at lunch time.
The software monitors all internet usage, including browsing, instant messaging, social networking and can prohibit illegal (peer-to-peer) P2P file downloads. The Home PC Internet Security software helps to protect the home computer from computer attacks and viruses.
The website also offers a parenting programme, providing hints, tips and guidance to parents struggling to keep up to speed with the parenting the internet generation. Parents who are not as technically adept as their children can avail of guidance to better supervise online behaviour and create a safe online environment.
Established in 2009 by David Girvan, ReassureMe.com is a social enterprise model where up to 44pc of the price received for the software goes to charity. The website uses internationally recognised and market-leading software, approved by the UK Standards Authority with the expectation that several other industry-recognised security brands will come on-stream in the future. The Parental Supervision software costs €49 while the complete Home PC Safety and Internet Security version is priced at €79.
“We spent four years researching the best solution for this initiative which has to fulfil the strictest of standards,” explained Girvan.
“The software is simple to use, extremely advanced but designed to be as intuitive as possible. As a hosted solution, parents can simply log on to the ReassureMe website at any time and check out the online activities of the children. In fact they can even virtually ground their children by restricting internet access while on the move.
“The internet provides superb educational and social opportunities for our children and these tools are designed to give parents peace of mind that their children are learning in a safe environment. We also want the topic of children’s internet usage from being an invisible and hidden online subject to one on the breakfast table in every home. Many of today’s children are ‘digital natives’ and the extra resources from ReassureMe.com will help parents keep pace with the rapid developments online.”
The parental supervision and anti-virus software is available via a download from the ReassureMe.com website on a no obligation, free trial basis. Parents can nominate the charity they wish to receive the donation while queries that come through the charities themselves will be seamlessly rewarded.
To date, 12 Irish children’s charities have signed up for this initiative, including Barnardos, CARI, Crumlin’s children’s hospital (Medical & Research Foundation), The Jack & Jill Foundation, Barretstown, Angels Quest, Enable Ireland, Carmona Services, Carmona Special National School Parents Association, Temple Street Hospital, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and the Children’s Sunshine Home.
Speaking at the launch, Dr Niall Muldoon, national clinical director, CARI, said: “Children are extremely vulnerable when online and their insecurities make them prime targets for online grooming.
“In particular, the filming and distribution of sexual abuse victims leaves enormous scars and adds huge weight to the horror and increases the time needed to heal. Children need to be protected and parents have a key role in providing this security,” Muldoon said.