Oireachtas committee calls for formal cyber safety education in schools

The Chair of the Oireachtas Children's Committee suggests smartphones should be banned in classrooms

Oireachtas committee calls for formal cyber safety education in schools

Pictured (LtoR) Anne Rabbitte TD, Senator Catherine Noone ,Lisa Chambers TD and Chairperson Alan Farrell TD speaking in the AV Room of Leinster House at today's report launch. Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

An Oireachtas committee has called for formal cyber safety education to be introduced in both primary and secondary schools.

The Children & Youth Affairs Committee has released its 'Report on Cyber Security for Children and Young Adults', which makes a series of recommendations.

Members are calling for the introduction of a digital safety commissioner, who would have a particular focus on children and young people.

In schools themselves, the committee recommends the appointment of some teachers as 'digital safety ambassadors', who would receive support and training in order to help students when issues around cyber safety and security arise.

It adds: "The joint committee recommends that both primary and post-primary schools and local libraries should be encouraged and supported to host parent’s education and awareness evenings on cyber safety. The joint committee believes that presentations should be given by children and young people themselves in this regard."

The report calls for new laws on harassment, with a focus on all forms of communication - including digital and online.

It also recommends a public awareness campaign in cyber security - including a focus on the 'right to be forgotten - and for social media platforms to strengthen their safety policies.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell - who is chair of the committee - suggested there also needs to be a conversation about access to smartphones in classrooms.

He observed: "I think there is a decision to be made by boards of managements or indeed principals of schools, to determine whether a mobile phone should be permitted in a classroom - I don't think it should, under any circumstances.

"There are of course technology options that don't involve mobile phones. But when it comes to content, there clearly are certain websites out there that provide all sorts of content - whether it's legal in this jurisdiction, moral or otherwise."

The committee's report will now be sent to the Government for consideration.