20% of 8-13 year olds talk to strangers online daily
Nearly 70% of 8-13 year olds are on social media despite digital consent age
CyberSafeIreland research suggests 41 per cent of eight and nine-year-olds are playing over-18s games which are frequently violent and inappropriate. Photograph: Getty Images
Almost 70 per cent of children between the ages of eight and 13 own their own smart phone and are on social media, new research states.
The survey was carried out with 5,000 children, parents and teachers who attended courses by CyberSafeIreland, the online safety charity.
It revealed that almost 20 per cent of 12 year olds are spending in excess of four hours per day online and that 18 per cent of eight to 13 year old children are talking to strangers online every day. That figure rises to 32 per cent of children who are talking to strangers online every week.
The research also suggests that 41 per cent of eight and nine-year-olds are playing over-18s games which are frequently violent and inappropriate.
CyberSafeIreland said it is concerned that there is not enough guidance and support out there for parents, teachers and social workers working in child-focused environments to address the variety of online risks that children are facing.
Nearly two-thirds of teachers (62 per cent) have to deal with at least one online safety incident annually and a third dealt with between two and five incidents over the last academic year.
CyberSafeIreland chief executive Alex Cooney said many nine-year-olds are likely to own a smartphone and be on social media though the digital age of consent has recently been set at 16.
The age of digital consent is the age at which a child can give their consent to a platform or online service to collect and profile their information.
Mr Cooney said: “Our data highlights the need to start education programmes with both parents and children from a young age with a focus on children embracing a more positive use of technology.”
He called on the State to appoint a digital safety commissioner to deal with social media companies who he said should be doing more to protect under-age users.
“It’s vital that the Government does more to address this issue and goes further than its recent action plan on online safety to set clear time-bound targets by which the success of its policies can be measured,”he said.
Despite the well documented dangers online, the survey found that 15 per cent of children have never spoken to their parents about the issue and a further 15 per cent have not discussed the issue for over a year.
CyberSafeIreland’s programme director Cliona Curley warned parents that having a talk with children about cybersafety when they are in sixth class is frequently too late.
“The reality is that we are not addressing online safety with our children either at home or in school early enough,” she said.
“By the age of 13, we are finding that many children already have very established habits and patterns of behaviour online.
“We need to teach children digital literacy skills so that they are able to critically assess information and make smart choices online. We urgently need to make the online safety of our children a national priority”.