The ISPCC has called for a national strategy on children’s cyber safety. The organisation claims that children are being exposed to sexualised exploitation and bullying due to the rise of technology.
“The ISPCC is increasingly concerned about the extent to which children and young people are exposed to exploitation and harm online,” said ISPCC CEO Grainia Long.
“While we are firm believers in the positive impact that technology and social media is having, our work with children and young people has also convinced us that, as a society, we are failing to prepare children to identify risks online, to cope when harm takes place, and to empower children and young people to stay safe online.”
‘Many young people have been in touch when they are concerned that they are being coerced to send photos of themselves to boyfriends or girlfriends. This is deeply upsetting for a child’
– GRAINIA LONG, ISPCC
Bullying and bribery
Childline, the national listening service for children, takes calls from young people who are concerned about their safety online.
Long spoke this week at the annual Cyber Risk Summit of Cyber Risk International, which held its event in Dublin this year.
She said that, in recent months, there has been increase in the number of young people contacting Childline in relation to sexting.
“Many young people have been in touch when they are concerned that they are being coerced to send photos of themselves to boyfriends or girlfriends. This is deeply upsetting for a child.
‘Many young people isolate themselves from others, feel guilty or humiliated’
– GRANIA LONG, ISPCC
“In other cases, Childline has been contacted when an image has already been sent and the image is then being used to bribe, or indeed to ridicule, the child.
“In more serious cases, children have contacted us when they’ve met someone online who they believe to be a peer, but who they later suspect to be an adult.
“We have also seen instances of young people who have been stalked by their peers, which is extremely stressful. Overall, while we value access to online networks for children and young people, this in turn increases the ease at which harm, or crime, is committed.”
Long said that, as a society, we are only beginning to understand the scale and nature of harm and criminal behaviour towards children online.
“In particular, the psychological impact on children of online behaviour is profound, where they have engaged in behaviour of a sexual nature, or where there is a threat of harm.
“Many young people isolate themselves from others, feel guilty or humiliated.
“The coming together of government, state agencies, NGOs, industry and parents in a coordinated effort to respond to inappropriate behaviour and illegal behaviour is urgently needed. We ignore this issue at our peril and, more importantly, at children’s peril,” Long warned.
The subject of mental wellbeing and internet ethics and cybersafety will also be discussed at the upcoming Technology for Wellbeing conference on 14 September at the Marker Hotel, which is being organised by ReachOut Ireland
Isolated teenager image via Shutterstock