TD proposes new law to restrict children's internet access

Cyberpsychologist Ciaran McMahon says resources should be devoted to education instead

TD proposes new law to restrict children's internet access

File photo. Picture by: Peter Byrne/PA Archive/PA Images

A new law is being proposed which would make it illegal for shops to sell internet-enabled mobiles to kids under 14.

Fine Gael Deputy Jim Daly is working on a new bill which would also stop parents letting young children own a device that has web access.

He sees it as a way to prevent children accessing unsuitable content.

Deputy Daly told The Journal: "I think as a parent it would be hugely helpful if there was guidance, regulation and indeed laws in the State that will allow me, as a parent, to say to my child ‘it is illegal to have [that] device at your age’."

Criticising the proposed bill, Independent Councillor Keith Redmond told Pat Kenny: "It will basically impose a €100 fine on the retailer for selling to a child, and also a fine on the parent for giving access to a phone with the Internet to their own children.

"Effectively what he wants to do is for the State to step in and parent his own children."

Cyberpsychologist Ciaran McMahon says he is not sure it is the best way to tackle the problem.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, he argued: "Governments [...] love making things illegal. What they don't love doing is actually funding education, awareness and training teachers how to deal with Internet safety.

"I think it could have a positive effect, it could have many negative effects, it could be very easy to get around it."

He added: "Maybe even before the first year of primary school, you need to start educating children in how to use information technology.

"It needs to be a very big, properly funded campaign. You have to have up-to-date devices within schools. You need to have primary and secondary school teachers trained to a very high degree around these things, because really we're very far behind."