Security fears as children can’t tell difference between online and offline friends

11 Nov 2013

There are massive grey areas around online security for the 62pc of Irish children who now use connected devices, such as smartphones and tablets, new research suggests.

The research for the Vodafone Ireland Foundation reveals that many children struggle to tell the difference between “offline” and “online” friends, with almost a quarter saying they would like to meet their online friends and a further 51pc undecided.

More than half (56pc) of the 4-11-year-olds surveyed believe it’s OK to look at any videos and photos on the internet. Meanwhile, almost four out of 10 (37pc) parents surveyed said they are not given enough support when it comes to teaching their children about internet safety.

The research was commissioned to mark the launch of Vodafone’s new ‘Digital Facts of Life’ initiative to teach children about online safety, featuring the popular Moshi Monsters characters.

Seventy-five per cent of 4-11-year-olds correctly associate the internet with their computer, computers all around the world or have a sense that the internet is everywhere. The remainder either didn’t know or believe it is located in the sky or in space. More than half of all children (53pc) were aware that there are costs associated with using the internet. Eight out of 10 (83pc) also admitted they have to follow rules when using a smartphone, tablet or computer. Not surprisingly, the research by YouGov revealed that parents are the primary ‘gatekeeper’, with almost eight out 10 (77pc) children saying they taught them about internet usage.

More online resources for parents

“The research also reveals a clear need for more support and resources for parents,” Natalie Hodgess from the Vodafone Ireland Foundation said.

“We have developed a range of resources which parents can access at  It includes advice for parents about the different age groups, as well as tips on setting up parental controls across all devices. Parents can also download our special Vodafone Safety Net app which will enable them to manage their child’s smartphone by providing protection from inappropriate calls, messages and online content,” she added.

Packs of specially designed Moshi Monster cards will be available in Vodafone’s 117 retail outlets this Christmas. The initiative also offers a range of online supports for parents, including advice and tips, as well as a special parental control app for their children’s  Android smartphone.

Vodafone’s Moshi Monsters ‘Digital Facts of Life’ cards comprise of a series of simple puzzles to help parents discuss online safety with their children.

“The cards are designed to be fun for children to complete, as well as reveal what children know and, very importantly, what they don’t know about internet safety and provide parents with a valuable opportunity to talk to their children,” said Hodgess.

Kid with laptop image via Shutterstock