New recommendations on how to keep Ireland’s children safe online

No one-size-fits-all solution to children's internet safety

This week, the European Commission will meet with stakeholders across Europe at the annual Safer Internet Forum to discuss how to create a better Internet for children. In a new report looking at national differences, the researchers in EU Kids Online have published specific recommendations for each country. For Ireland, the report recommends boosting digital literacy initiatives as well more awareness raising for parents about online safety.

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Parental restrictions may create false sense of security 

The report reveals how parents in Ireland are the most restrictive in Europe in their supervision of children’s internet use. 95% of parents of internet-using children set rules about what their children can and cannot do online.  This may create a false of security with a consequent reduction in children’s online opportunities. This has direct implications for policy with children missing out on valuable opportunities and important skills online.

Brian O'Neill, Dublin Institute of Technology who is responsible for the survey in Ireland explains:

“Effective mediation is more than the setting of rules or very strict application of parental controls. It is about parents and adults having an active dialogue with children and being realistic about the real risks that are there but also learning to manage them.  That way children can adapt to the online world with greater confidence and skill”.

Ireland: Lower use/Some risk

Irish children’s online activities are fewer in number and at the lower end of a ‘ladder of opportunities’ compared to other countries in Europe.  57% of 9-16 year olds in Ireland don’t go beyond the most basic uses of the internet – such as information retrieval, watching videos and communicating with friends. This has implications for Ireland’s ambitions to be a digital world leader.

Commenting on the results Dr Leslie Haddon, Senior Researcher working on the EU Kids Online project at the LSE said:

For the first time, we present findings for 33 European countries, allowing direct comparisons in the experiences of children as they go online in different countries. These national differences mean that there is no one-size-fits-all-solution for children's internet safety”

The report recommends that Ireland should focus on supporting digital literacy, targeting skills and encouraging a broadening of online activities. Given the importance of the IT sector to Ireland’s economy, it argues, there is an urgent need to support digital opportunities for all.

Old internet safety recommendations no longer relevant

As more Irish children go online using their mobile phone (46% in Ireland compared 31% European average), traditional advice such as “put the computer in the living room” is no longer as relevant.

Internet safety therefore has to address the full range of opportunities and risks on all connected devices. Here, the report argues that better coordination between the various public agencies and NGOs is needed to bridge the skills and knowledge gaps highlighted.

Other findings in the report:

  • 57% of young people don’t go beyond the second step of a 5 stage ladder of online activities. The most popular activities are ‘watching video clips’ and ‘playing internet games’ (76% each), followed by using the internet for schoolwork and using social networking (58% each).
  • Use of the internet at home (IE 87% vs. EU 62%) and mobile internet access is high (IE 46% vs. EU 31%). So too is going online via gaming consoles (IE 44% vs. EU 26%).  
  • One third of 9-16 year olds (34%) also say they know more about the internet than their parents: one third (31%) say it is ‘a bit true’ and one third (36%) say it is ‘not true’ of them.
  • Over half of Irish parents also feel they should do more to support their children’s internet use (27% a lot more; 37% a bit more). Younger children would also like parents to take more interest (22% of 9-12 year old boys; 25% of 9-12 year old girls).

For more information:

National Perspectives is a comparative report showing the relative experiences of children across a range of indicators in the countries participating in EU Kids Online.  Researchers, stakeholders and others can find a concise summary of children’s internet usage, risk and harm experiences and parental approaches to mediation. The report is based on interviews with 25,000 children and parents across 25 European countries.

The full report, National Perspectives, is available for download.

For more information please contact Brian O'Neill, brian.oneill@dit.ie  Tel: 086 8030050 or see www.eukidsonline.net

Information about the project and survey:

  • The EU Kids Online project aims to enhance knowledge of European children’s and parents’ experiences and practices regarding risky and safer use of the internet and new online technologies, and thereby to inform the promotion of a safer online environment for children. The project is funded by the EC Safer Internet Programme (SI-2010-TN-4201001).
  • EU Kids Online conducted a face-to-face, in home survey of 25,000 9-16 year old internet users and their parents in 25 countries, using a stratified random sample and self-completion methods for sensitive questions.
  • Countries included in the survey are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the UK. In addition the project includes research teams from Croatia, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Russia, Slovakia and Switzerland.
  • In Ireland, EU Kids Online is led by Brian O'Neill, Dublin Institute of Technology in association with PDST (Professional Development Services for Teachers) and www.webwise.ie
  • For more findings, reports and technical survey details, see www.eukidsonline.net or visit us at Facebook
  • EU Kids Online will represent these findings at The Safer Internet Forum. The forum has been organized by the Safer Internet Programme as an annual conference on safer internet issues since 2004. It brings together representatives of industry, law enforcement authorities, child welfare organizations and policy makers. The past editions of the Safer Internet Forum have welcomed guests not only from Europe, but also from countries such as Australia, Brazil or the Russian Federation
  • A Digital Youth Symposium, in association with EU Kids Online, on developing digital opportunities for youth will be opened by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs at the Science Gallery, Dublin on November 2nd . More information: www.digitalyouth.ie

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