Change of mind on smartphone bans for children

Grainne Long, CEO ISPCC

Bans on smartphones for children were being rowed back on internationally, being reintroduced “in a mediated and moderated way”, a conference was told.

An annual Women in Media conference in Ballybunion, Co Kerry, heard how children regarded online activity as part of life, but some were concerned for their own safety.

A single body needed to be set up along the lines of the Road Safety Authority to issue guidelines on digital use and a dialogue needed be opened with children and young people on what they wanted, a panel discussion was told.

Grainne Long, chief executive of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, signalled her support for an office for a digital safety commission.

She said children were increasingly at risk online and wanted to be listened to but noted they should not have unlimited access. She agreed with setting boundaries.

“A lot of countries had made those decisions [banning online use] and are now reintroducing in a moderated and mediated way,” she said.

Mairead Foody of DCU said taking devices off children was a kneejerk reaction.

Research showed this had no real effect on cyberbullying. 

Research to be published soon by her department found 14% of 15- to 18-year-olds who had posted a sexual image of themselves to a boyfriend “consensually” found the image shared non-consensually online. About 2% advised an adult about what occurred.

“We really, really need to open a dialogue with our young people and get them to tell us the challenges they face with what undoubtedly will be a future online, no matter what we do about it,” Dr Foody said.

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