‘A conduit for sexual predators’ – Is it time to ban smartphones for young children?

Ciara Kelly calls for legal ban on giving smartphones to young children: "We're a society of ostriches in denial."
Michael Staines
Michael Staines

10.49 2 Apr 2024

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‘A conduit for sexual predator...

‘A conduit for sexual predators’ – Is it time to ban smartphones for young children?

Michael Staines
Michael Staines

10.49 2 Apr 2024

Share this article

Smartphones are an ‘absolute conduit for sexual predators’ and we should make it illegal to give them to young children, Ciara Kelly has warned.

The Newstalk presenter was speaking after the new media and online regulator, Coimisiún na Meán, issued a warning about a “sharp rise” in self-generated compromising images of a sexual nature among seven to 10-year-old primary school children.

Speaking at the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) conference in Derry last night, Education Minister Norma Foley said sexual predators were using social media apps to groom children.


Describing it as "every parent’s worst nightmare," she said predators often pretend to be another child and then blackmail children once they provide compromising images.

'Society of ostriches'

On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Ciara said Ireland has become a “society of ostriches in denial” when it comes to smartphone use among young children.

“These are Holy Communion kids,” she said. “These are kids who are somewhere between maybe first and fourth class.

“It struck me that we, as a society, in terms of the smartphone use of our small kids - I'm not talking about our teenagers; we all know the effect it's having on them as well - that we are a society of ostriches in denial.

“This is like when we see another school shooting in the US and we go, ‘Why don't they ban guns’ and we can't understand it – that is what we're doing to our small children when we give our small children a smartphone and we see this statistic.

“These are kids taking photos of themselves and they've been coerced into doing it. Seven to 10-year-olds.”


Ciara said it is time to ban smartphones for children below a certain age.

“Surely there has to be a solution that we just decide as a country that it is not appropriate for children - children below a certain age, be it 12 or whatever - to have a smartphone,” she said.

“Surely that's got to be it.”


Ciara rejected the idea it would be ‘draconian’ to make handing smartphones to children illegal.

“They're not allowed to have an E-scooter, they’re not allowed to drive a car, they are not allowed to drink alcohol,” she said.

“We would say to a parent, if you're giving your children alcohol at that age, you're breaking the law and they drink alcohol themselves.

“I don't know, but there are seven to 10-year-olds in this country and there is a sharp rise in self-generated sexual images.

“They are your kids; your Holy Communion-going kids are under pressure to generate sexual images of themselves externally, and it's happening through their phones.

“We watch them like hawks at the playground, crossing the road, we don't let them walk to school anymore by themselves.

“We do all these things to protect them and yet we put into their hand an absolute conduit for sexual predators.”

Coimisiún na Meán

Coimisiún na Meán has also warned that social media algorithms aimed at keeping children online for as long as possible are causing sleep deprivation and damaging pupils’ attention span.

Also on the show this morning, Minister Foley said her department has been “very clear” that parents and schools should sign up to voluntary agreements not to provide smart phones to children until they leave primary school.

Asked about a potential ban on smartphones for kids, she said she was focused on “informing and opening everybody’s eye to the consequences and impacts [phones are] having”.

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