ISPCC calls for ‘panic button’ for Irish teens using Facebook

14 Oct 2011

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) has called for the development of a safety button or ‘panic button’ for Irish teens using Facebook and other similar sites.

In a report issued yesterday, the ISPCC says it has been recommending this for several years and it is currently operational in the UK.

The ISPCC also said it believes that legislation for monitoring and addressing child abuse online needs to be enhanced to keep in line with the on-going development of technology.

The second annual National Children’s Consultation report, ‘This will come back and bite us in the butt’, consulted with 18,116 young people in primary and secondary school, as well as harder-to-reach groups of those not in the formal education system. It is clear, generally, from the findings that the internet has become an integral part of the everyday lives of young people in Ireland; however, the extent to which young people adhere to safety precautions while online is cause for great concern.

It found that just less than half of the older group (secondary/youth) surveyed said they used the internet at home in their bedroom (44pc) rather than in a communal area in the home.

Almost a quarter (24pc) of the older group (secondary/youth) responded they did not use privacy settings, while more than one-third (36pc) of the younger group (primary) indicated they did not know how to keep their social network account private.

Some 17pc of the older group and 13pc of the primary group said they have given their full name to someone online whom they had never met; with 10pc of the older group admitting to also giving personal details, such as email address, mobile number or photo.

More than 2,000 (16pc) of the secondary group surveyed stated they had met up with someone from online – it was also noted that more young people who said they had met up with someone also used the internet at home in their bedroom.

Some 26pc of the older group said they or someone they knew had been bullied online, but fewer than 10pc of them had told anyone other than friends about it.

Terrifying findings about internet safety in Ireland

Ashley Balbirnie, CEO of ISPCC, expressed concern about some of the dangers facing children online today: “Some of the findings revealed in this report are truly terrifying. To hear that so many young people, despite the threats lurking online, are spending hours in their bedrooms, unsupervised, giving out personal information and in some cases organising to meet up with strangers is absolutely horrific.

“The figures clearly show that young people are not taking necessary and available safety precautions while online and leaving themselves open to some extremely dangerous situations.

“If a 13-year-old girl surveyed in this report can predict that ‘this will come back and bite us in the butt’ surely now, as adults we can see that not enough is being done to ensure the protection of children online. There is no doubt that immediate steps must be taken to limit the likelihood of any young person being seriously harmed through online activity,” Balbirnie said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years