Four out of five eight-year-olds own a smart device connecting them to the internet and half are already engaged in social media, new research has found.
A survey released by the charity Cyber Safe Ireland also shows that 40 per cent of children aged between eight and 10 years were actively talking to strangers online in some capacity, 15 per cent of them on a daily basis.
Launching the survey results of 1,200 children in that age group to mark Safer Internet Day, director Mick Moran said it was time to turn the tide on child exploitation and abuse. "Today is a reminder of our joint responsibility to empower children to protect themselves and, therefore, to prevent online crime in the first place," he said.
The results show one in five children has appeared in a YouTube video. One-tenth of those surveyed are online for more than four hours a day and more than a quarter of them play games designed for over-18s.
“More than a third of the eight to 10-year-olds are rarely or never talking to their parents about online safety,” the organisation said.
“All children in this age group who are online are potentially vulnerable; but those who are online without parental engagement are particularly vulnerable.”
Separately, the Department of Children is supporting an awareness campaign on cyberbullying by the Garda and communications company Eir.
Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Driscoll said gardaí were committed to tackling the issue. “We would encourage victims of cyberbullying to report the bullies and provide us with the evidence which will help to ensure other people will not become victims of this terrible behaviour,” he said.