Young people need to develop digital literacy skills in order to navigate their way safely online in a post-truth world.
That was the warning at the launch of a range of new resources for schools aimed at marking Safer Internet Day.
Ciara O’Donnell, national director of the Professional Development Service for Teachers, said digital media is rapidly changing and continues to provide new opportunities for young people to engage, connect, create and learn.
But she said it was vital for young people to develop digital skills and an understanding of how these new technologies work.
“We’re living in a post-truth climate where quantity is often prized over quantity,” she said. “Content that reads right or sounds right gets accepted as truth.”
Ms O’Donnell said the key to tackling this lay in empowering young people to navigate their way through this maze rather than trying to shield them from it.
Webwise, which is part of the PDST, has launched a free educational resource on Tuesday - Connected - designed for Junior Cycle students to mark Safer Internet Day.
The resource introduces students to key areas of digital media literacy and also aims to highlight the importance of digital wellbeing, including resilience and respect in the digital world.
Copies are being sent to all secondary schools and it also available to download online (www.webwise.ie/connected).
Ms O’Donnell said Connected will give students an appreciation of the role of digital technologies in their day-to-day lives, as well as helping them to develop key digital media literacy skills to responsibly navigate the online environment.”
An alliance of children’s groups, meanwhile, have joining forces to highlight the need for online safety for young people to remain a high priority in the next programme for government.
They want the establishment of a new digital safety commissioner as well as a comprehensive digital literacy programme for schools and youth work settings.
The groups have also urged that the Garda be effectively resourced to investigate crimes involving images of child sex abuse.
The groups in the alliance included Barnardos, Children's Rights Alliance, CyberSafeIreland, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, One in Four, the ISPCC and SpunOut.ie.
Suzanne Connolly, chief executive of Barnardos, said there is increasingly no difference between the offline and the online world for young people.
“The next government need to recognise the importance of prevention and early intervention in this context, and the need to empower children and parents through education - it is the key way to helping children be smart and safe, as well as resilient online,” she said.