This was a major concern voiced by 70 young people aged between 13 and 17 who were asked about their experience of harmful online communications for the Law Reform Commission’s latest report.
Catfishing is “stealing someone’s identity by make a fake profile” or “posing as other people without their prior consent”. It was most commonly used to get nude photographs of a person, the young people said.
One participant said: “Catfishing is incredibly easy to do and really dangerous . . . it can be used to start fights, kidnap people, and make people believe they have relationships with fake people.”
Another said: “It’s dangerous in the sense that older people being able to pretend they are the same age as you . . . especially when you think you know the person and meet up with them and they’re not the person you thought. This could lead to sexual abuse.”
“Cyberbullying is like trolling, materials can be posted, nasty abusive comments, sharing photos without permission, stalking and spam, harassing. It can happen over a period of time and some material shared could really affect a person’s life emotionally, or their job interviews.”
“Ask.fm, a social media site where you can ask other users questions anonymously, is not as popular as it used to be. Young people are looking out for each other and sticking up for them on the comments.”
Groupchats were identified as an area where bullying could occur as well as illegal activity such as the sharing of intimate photographs of children. Groups on Instagram that promote eating disorders and self-harm were highlighted.
“There should be better laws on illegal content sharing and receiving.”
“Discriminating posts against members of the LGBT society should be blocked.”
“Isis and other Islamic terrorist groups have made a bad name for the Islamic faith so I think the videos they make about threats, beheadings and much more horrific things should be taken down immediately.”
“Pornographic adverts on movie sites like Putlocker should be illegal because young people watching things shouldn’t see that.”
“It’s very awkward when your young sister is online and porn ads pop-up. You have to explain to parents that I’m watching a normal movie, not porn, when they walk in and see a random ad for porn sites.”