Teachers feel ‘ill-equipped’ to teach online safety

The vast majority of school teachers feel ill-equipped to teach children about online safety.

According to research by CyberSafeIreland, 69% of teachers do not feel well enough equipped to teach on the subject.

The research, which is published today, also found that 16% of children under the age of 13 are spending more than four hours online every day.

Other findings showed that there was a low level of engagement between parents and children, about online activity.

Almost one third (32%) of the 621 children surveyed, the vast majority of whom are under the age of 13, had rarely or never spoken to their parents about keeping safe online.

While 621 children were interviewed, more than 1,000 people, including teachers and parents, took part in the CyberSafeIreland survey.

Cyber bullying emerged as one of the most prevalent issues in the data, as 179 teachers surveyed said they had to deal with an incident in the last 12 months.

CyberSafeIreland carried out the research over the last 12 months when delivering online safety training sessions around the country.

It is a not-for-profit organisation that was set up in 2015 to provide guidance to primary schools, children, and to parents in the safe use of communications technologies.

“As a nation, we are failing in our duty to protect our children online. If children are online then they need guidance, support, and supervision to manage their experiences safely and responsibly, especially when they are young,” said Alex Cooney, chief executive of CyberSafeIreland.

“Parents and teachers play a fundamental role in addressing online safety with children.

“Our research shows that they are not being adequately supported to take on this role,” Ms Cooney added.

CyberSafeIreland’s research also found that despite age restrictions around certain apps and social media platforms, the vast majority of children they engaged with already had an online presence.

In terms of meeting new people on the internet, 22% of children surveyed said they were in contact with strangers online and at least one child in 64% of the workshops with 8 to 10-year-olds was playing adult-rated games.

Cliona Curley, who is a cyber crime investigation specialist and programme director with CyberSafe- Ireland, said we need to understand children are “developmentally vulnerable”.

“Access to technology can be enormously beneficial to children, but we also must recognise that children are developmentally vulnerable and that they need support and guidance, both to protect them and to empower them to use that access wisely,” Ms Curley said.

The organisation advises parents to talk to their children about technology as soon as possible and to set boundaries around use.

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