Majority of teachers feel unable to talk to students about internet safety

CyberSafeIreland finds one third of children have not discussed online safety

Despite age restrictions of 13 and older on social media, the report found that the majority of children under this age are already active on social platforms. Photograph: iStock

Despite age restrictions of 13 and older on social media, the report found that the majority of children under this age are already active on social platforms. Photograph: iStock

 

Most teachers do not feel they have the resources to deliver effective classes on internet safety, according to CyberSafeIreland’s annual report.

The report found 69 per cent of teachers surveyed do not feel they have the necessary resources to tackle the issue, up from 64 per cent in 2016.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, CyberSafeIreland’s programme director Cliona Curley said not only have teachers not had the training but they feel they do not know how to speak the same language as their students.

“The feedback we get from teachers is it’s a mixture of not having the training to do this, but also not the confidence to deal with the conversations that kids want to have once you start talking about online safety,” Ms Curley said.

“Teachers are sometimes terrified that children will talk about Snapchat and they won’t know what a Snapstreak is or they won’t know what they’re talking about.”

“We’re finding some teachers are very tech savvy but while they might be confident with general technology, they’re not necessarily confident talking about what the kids are using.”

For their report CyberSafeIreland spoke to almost 5,000 children aged between eight and 13 and 885 parents across Leinster.

Despite age restrictions of 13 and older on social media, the report found that the majority of children under this age are already active on social platforms.

“The difficulty is the majority of kids we’re meeting of age nine to 13 - and we’ve talked to thousands over the last year - are on social media and they’re completely unprotected because they’re not officially on it.

“The reality is we need to be part of the process and we need to be part of our children’s digital lives. They won’t suddenly become good at dealing with social media, dealing with cyber bullying, dealing with all of the issues they have to deal with, dealing with the content they will come across.”

The report also found a third of children surveyed have never spoken to their parents about online safety.

The group is calling for the government to create national awareness campaigns to educate the public about online safety concerns and support parents in making sure their children are safe.

“We feel as a nation we’re not doing enough to protect children online, we need to have much greater government focus on the issue, we need to properly invest in children’s education and we need to be supporting parents because this is a huge issue for parents now,” said Ms Curley.

“The feedback we’re getting from parents everyday is that they’re overwhelmed by this. But there is a lot we could be doing for parents, we need national awareness campaigns, much like the 5-a-day healthy eating campaigns and the road safety campaigns, there are simple things that parents could do that can make a huge difference.

“Simply talking to their children about what they’re doing online, opening that channel of communication, can make a huge difference. But a lot of parents don’t know how to talk about it because there’s a huge gap between what the parents know about and what children are doing online.

“Do a bit of research, do a Google search on the name of the app and the word safety and you’ll find a lot of information on the risks and the safeguards, and then sit down with your kids and apply privacy settings together. Make it normal that you can talk about technology together.”