Survey warns one third of unsupervised children in regular contact with strangers online

Nearly 70% of children aged 8 -13 have smartphones and access social media

Survey warns one third of unsupervised children in regular contact with strangers online

File photo of a child using a laptop, 21-08-14. Image: Peter Byrne/PA Wire/PA Images

Research has found that large numbers of young Irish school children are putting themselves at risk through regular online contact with strangers.

A new survey has found that nearly 70% of children aged between 8 and 13-years-old own a smartphone - and are accessing social media messaging apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.

The poll undertaken by CyberSafeIreland (CSI) surveyed 1,500 children aged between 8 and 13.

It found that over a third rarely or never talk to their parents about online safety. Of that group, a third said they are in regular contact with a stranger online.

10% of all the children surveyed are in regular contact with strangers.

CSI chief executive Alex Cooney told Newstalk that parents need to stay far more aware of what their children are doing online.

 

“In order for children to be safe online, we really need parents to be engaging with them about their online lives,” she said.

“[Asking] what are they seeing and doing online; having regular conversations [with them].

“Making sure that they are doing some research so that they are well informed about when to give their child a device.”

The research found that around 50% of younger children use platforms that are supposed to be restricted to those over the age of 13-years-old.

Ms Cooney said many schools are struggling with the issue too:

“We found that 70% of teachers do not feel equipped to teach online safety in the classroom,” she said.

“So it is a huge challenge for schools as well.

“We have found that most schools are reactive so they are dealing with the problem when something arises – maybe a cyber-bullying incident arises in the classroom.”

The charity has called for a new national campaign to raise awareness amongst parents and teachers – and provide them with the support they need to keep their children and students safe online.