Children’s digital skills don’t match their confidence levels, report finds

43 per cent of nine to 16-year-olds don’t know how to report abuse online, survey reveals

The vast majority of Irish children believe they know more about the internet than their parents, yet 43 per cent still don’t know how to use the “report abuse” safety button on social networking sites.

That’s one of the main findings of a new report on internet usage among nine to 16-year-olds published ahead of Safer Internet Day tomorrow.

Nearly two-thirds of the 500 children surveyed for the report by Dublin Institute of Technology researchers Dr Brian O’Neill and Thuy Dinh claimed greater digital literacy than their parents, and girls claimed to have more skills than boys.


Yet their experience online didn’t always match this level of confidence, with 20 per cent of respondents saying they had encountered things online they wish they hadn’t seen.

Dr O’Neill expressed particular concern at the high numbers of young people who were unable to report abuse when they came across disturbing or negative content.

"There has been a lot of pressure on companies like Facebook and YouTube, that the cornerstone of their safety approach is the ability to flag abuse. If those kinds of buttons are not understood by children using them, there's definitely a clear message there for industry and for teaching safety skills," he said.

The Net Children Go Mobile report is being published in conjunction with new materials for primary schools designed by Webwise, an internet safety initiative funded by the Department of Education and the European Union.

Instagram was found to be the most popular media-sharing platform: some 42 per cent of nine to 16-year-olds said it was the service used most often to share photos.


The survey also confirmed a shift away from "traditional" playground bullying towards online forms of abuse. The report said the incidence of bullying among children in Ireland, at 22 per cent, had not increased since a 2011 EU Kids Online survey and remained close to the European average.

However, cyberbullying was now more prevalent than face-to-face bullying (13 per cent now compared with 4 per cent in 2011), and this occurred most commonly on social networks. Seeing sexual images – online or offline – had also increased since 2011 from 17 per cent to 21 per cent but was still below the European average. It also said social networks were now the primary source of viewed pornography.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times and writer of the Unthinkable philosophy column