Almost 40pc of Irish aged 11-12 on social media despite age restrictions – report

10 Feb 2015

Forty per cent of Irish youngsters ages 11-12 are flouting social media restrictions, new European research into mobile internet use suggests.

The research titled Net Kids Go Mobile, released today, involved a survey of around 3,500 youngsters aged 9-16 in seven countries. The results showed that Irish teens have been exposed to cyberbullying three times as much since the last research on the topic, back in 2011.

The Irish part of the report had been undertaken by Dublin Institute of Technology researchers Dr Brian O’Neill and Thuy Dinh, with the former concerned with the large number of youngsters unable to report abuse online. The research had been commissioned in conjunction with Webwise, an internet safety initiative funded by the Department of Education and the European Union.

Pressure points

“There has been a lot of pressure on companies like Facebook and YouTube, that the cornerstone of their safety approach is the ability to flag abuse. If those kinds of buttons are not understood by children using them, there’s definitely a clear message there for industry and for teaching safety skills,” O’Neill told The Irish Times.

Only yesterday, ESET Ireland reported worrying numbers of Irish youngsters – 70pc of those aged 16-24 – who have shared images that would embarrass them in public.

The choices made by youngsters regarding social media varies from country to country. Instagram and Snapchat are very popular amongst Irish kids aged 9-10 – 73pc of younger users with a media sharing account use Instagram.

Forty per cent of Irish kids aged 11-12 are active on social media despite age restrictions, with ownership of tablets and smartphones at a high level, too.

Smartphones stand out as the most used device for internet access on a daily basis by 9-16-year-olds in all contexts. Smartphones (35pc) followed by laptops (29pc) and tablets (27pc) are the devices most used most to go online.

“Most children spend between half an hour to two hours online per day,” reads the Net Kids Go Mobile report. “Most use happens during the day at home, with 14pc saying they use it ‘a lot’ after 9pm.”

Home comforts

Indeed it’s interesting that, despite the abundance of smart devices, most of the internet use by these youngsters is done in the home. Despite this, 20pc of those surveyed report that they have been bothered by something on the internet in the past year, a figure which has more than doubled since 2011.

Embracing technology is not a bad thing, with the benefits of consistent communication with loved ones and friends unsurpassed in any other way, however, the report concludes that smartphones and similar devices can have bad sides, too.

“Excessive use of smartphone(s) is one example, with 41pc of Irish children reporting two or more experiences associated with dependence and overdependence.

“Moreover, a significant number of children reported pressure to be always available for contact through these devices, and more children are also now reporting a range of negative consequences.”

Youngsters using a smartphone image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic