‘Most teachers feel unequipped to teach online safety’

More than two-thirds of primary school teachers do not feel equipped to teach online safety to their students, according to research by CyberSafeIreland.

The children’s internet safety charity also reveals one in three children have rarely, or ever, spoken to their parents about the issue although many are spending in excess of four hours a day online.

CyberSafeIreland, which surveyed more than 1,000 children, parents, and teachers who have attended its training sessions in the past 12 months, said it is concerned there is not enough guidance and support for parents, teachers, social workers, and others working in child-focused environments to address the variety of online risks facing children.

The view was echoed yesterday by the ISPCC as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone met Minister for Communications Denis Naughten and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan to discuss the potential need for greater legislation and regulation in that area.

“The ISPCC welcomes this meeting,” said Gráinia Long, chief executive of the ISPCC. “We would also like to reiterate our call for the Government to commit to publishing a national strategy on children’s cyber safety.”

Data from CyberSafeIreland’s second annual report reveals 69% of teachers do not feel equipped to teach online safety in the classroom, up from last year’s figure of 64%.

The report also found cyberbullying is a serious concern for schools, with 179 teachers dealing with 219 incidents of cyberbullying over the past year.

The report highlights the important role of parents in keeping their children safe online but found almost a third (32%) of the 621 children surveyed rarely, if ever, discussed it with them.

Alex Cooney, chief executive of CyberSafeIreland, said: “As a nation, we are failing in our duty to protect our children online.

Too often we are seeing children taking risks by sharing personal information in videos and photos, getting involved in incidences of cyberbullying, and talking to strangers online.

Parents and teachers play a fundamental role in addressing online safety. They are not being adequately supported.”

The report also found 16% of children under 13 are spending more than four hours online and 22% of children surveyed are in contact with a stranger.

Some 14% are talking to strangers every week through online gaming or accepting social media requests from strangers.

Cliona Curley, CyberSafeIreland’s programme director, said:

“The reality is that the Internet presents increasing opportunities for the sexual exploitation and abuse of children.

"Access to technology can be enormously beneficial to children, but we also must recognise children are developmentally vulnerable and that they need support and guidance. ”

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