Irish teachers and parents don’t feel equipped to discuss online safety

15 Sep 2017

Irish children need more guidance when it comes to online safety. Image: Asia Images Group/Shutterstock

A survey from CyberSafeIreland highlights some key issues for parents and educators alike.

CyberSafeIreland was set up in 2015 to provide guidance in the use of communications technologies and wider online safety rules to children, parents and primary schools.

It recently surveyed more than 1,000 children, parents and teachers who attended its training sessions over the past 12 months, and is concerned that the results show a lack of guidance and support around online risks faced by vulnerable young people.

The vast majority of primary school teachers (69pc) don’t feel they are adequately equipped to teach online safety in the classroom, an increase of 5pc on 2016’s figures. For teachers, the primary concern is cyber-bullying, with 219 incidents occurring over the last year.

The report also noted that parents have the potential to have a larger role in keeping their children safe online, but 62pc of the 621 children surveyed – the vast majority of whom are under 13 – had rarely or never spoken to their parents about online safety measures.

Contact with strangers

22pc of children surveyed said they are in online contact with a stranger, with 14pc of them speaking to unknown people weekly through online gaming or accepting social media requests.

Cybercrime investigation specialist and programme director of CyberSafeIreland, Cliona Curley, explained that although many of the connections made are harmless, some cases can be concerning. “Access to technology can be enormously beneficial to children, but we also must recognise that children are developmentally vulnerable and that they need support and guidance, both to protect them and to empower them to use that access wisely.”

Alex Cooney, CEO of CyberSafeIreland, said “as a nation, we are failing in our duty to protect our children online”. He emphasised the need for more parental and educational resources in order to address these issues. He said children “need guidance, support and supervision to manage their experiences safely and responsibly, especially when they are young”.

Tips for parents

Do your research

Vet the apps that your child is using or wants to use. Examine the functionality yourself, paying close attention to chat facilities, privacy settings and the method of reporting abuse it has.

Set boundaries

Apply your rules from the beginning, and stick to them. Where can they use their devices? What behaviour is acceptable? It’s also advised for location tracking to be constantly turned off on your child’s devices.

Start talking

Probably the most important aspect is to start the conversation around online safety now. As soon as your child shows an interest in your devices, tell them what is OK and what isn’t in an age-appropriate manner.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects