The Irish Times view on internet safety for children

Safer Internet Day puts the focus on online dangers, particularly for younger people, with pressure on parents to understand the tools children are using and their potential impact

The pandemic made us all loosen control over our screen time, and it’s difficult to rein that in once the pattern has been established. This is all the more the case as services are shifting online, whether it is homework that is submitted digitally, learning resources that depend on internet access, or social networks. We can no longer dismiss the online world as something that isn’t “real”. And for parents, monitoring and guiding children in their online use is a particular challenge.

Tuesday is Safer Internet Day, an EU-wide initiative focusing particularly on young people. Campaigners are urging parents to have conversations with their children about online safety, keeping the lines of communication open so children will feel more comfortable discussing any content they come across. Unfortunately , it is not a case of whether a child will come across inappropriate material online, it is a case of when. The better prepared children are for it, the less the risk involved.

It is impossible to shut children off from technology. It is part of our lives, and trying to limit access to tech platforms is not only extremely difficult, it may limit your child in terms of digital skills. Proper and age-appropriate boundaries are important, albeit hard for parents to police.

Many parents worry – with justification – that spending so much time online can limit normal socialisation and development and can lead to unhealthy pressures. Parents and schools have a responsibility to address issues such as cyberbullying, image-sharing, privacy, fake news and online wellbeing. Talking to children and young adults about the unrealistic world often shown on social media is important, as well as educating them about the need to be sceptical and questioning of information found online.


Better regulation and more pressure on social media companies to manage their platforms more actively and effectively is important. But parents also need to educate themselves about what their children and young adults are doing online and realise both the opportunities and threats this can entail.