Today’s parents are the first to have to consider the prospect that their children might spend more time with strangers online than they are spending with them. Those same parents, more than likely already feeling guilty that the obligations of sustaining a family make time with that family almost a novelty, have been warned that it is “incredibly important” they know who their children are speaking to online.
Even if that seems advice from the Ladybird Book of Parenting, it is all too relevant, as research established that a fifth of children aged between 8 and 10 and a quarter of 12- year-olds are talking to strangers online every day.
This Cyber Safe Ireland finding makes the old advice offered to children who walked to school — “don’t talk to strangers, don’t take sweets from strangers” — seem impossibly quaint.
There is nothing quaint, however, about the finding, after engaging with nearly 4,000 children, that 36% of eight-year-old boys and 43% of 10-year-old boys, are playing over-18s games and are exposed to violent and sexual content inappropriate for their age.
It is not difficult — or sanctimonious or prudish — to imagine that this undermines the work being done to make respect the foundation of all relationships be they personal or on a wider plane.
This report, and so many others like it, warns again that we have little or no understanding of the power, of the addictive qualities of personal screens. Let’s hope we reach that point before it is too late.