Parents are ‘out of their depth’ and ‘defeated’ when it comes to their children’s smartphone usage, according to Newstalk Breakfast presenter Ciara Kelly.
She was speaking after online safety charity CyberSafeKids warned that half of Ireland’s children believe they “spend too much time online”.
In a survey released to mark Safer Internet Day, the charity also warned that a third of children are allowed to go online whenever they want and a fifth have recently seen something online they ‘wouldn't want their parents to know about'.
Ciara said the majority of parents genuinely want to do the right thing when it comes to their children’s online life – but don’t know where to turn for information and advice.
“What strikes me from reading this is that parents are both out of their depth and in some cases, defeated by their children’s smartphone usage,” she said.
“I say that because I genuinely believe that the vast majority of parents want to do the right thing by their kids.
“But when a third of kids have no online restrictions whatsoever; on whenever you want, watch whatever you want, no-one tells you what to do … it wouldn’t happen with other things.
“It wouldn’t happen with television, it wouldn’t happen with the sweets cupboard or with treats, it wouldn’t happen with any those other things.
“Off you go there with the TV, a coke and a bar of chocolate – it just wouldn’t happen.”
She said parents are more confident in other areas because they learned what to do during their own childhoods.
“I think we forget how much of our parenting we learned through seeing other people,” she said. “We modelled on our own parents [and] we modelled on our peers.
“This came from nowhere. Technology in this sort of sphere came from nowhere and you can listen to all the Jess Kelly advice in the world about putting stuff on their phones to monitor them and restricting your wi-fi so there are firewalls but for many, many parents, they are out of their depth and they are defeated.”
Ciara said parents need better support and advice on how to do right by their kids.
“I do believe that is what they want to do but they are struggling,” she said.
“I say that and as a parent, I was also very ostrich-like about all this stuff myself. You know how I dealt with it? I was just glad my kids started to get older and became a little bit less vulnerable to it all.
“That is the truth of it. That is how out of my depth I was and I suspect from these stats, I am definitely not alone.”
Shane said the truly frightening thing is the kind of content children can easily access nowadays.
“Porn is just a click away,” he said. “There’s no doubt our kids are watching porn and there’s no doubt it is having a negative impact on them and changing their perception of sex – and not in a healthy way.
“I just think maybe as parents, we need to get in the zone a little bit more and actually start doing something.”
“We have certain rules at home. At nighttime, they’re not allowed have their phones and at mealtimes, they are not allowed have their phones.
“But then, last night I was looking at my phone during dinner and one of the kids called me out on it – so maybe we have to look at ourselves a little bit as well.”
Ciara said we should have national guidelines regarding phone usage – including advice on what age children should get their first smartphone.