Teens keep parents in dark over online activity

Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the launch of the McAfee Online Safety for Kids programme. Picture: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

An alarming number of Irish teenagers are keeping their parents in the dark about what they are up to in cyberspace.

More than half of the 200 teenagers surveyed have admitted to wiping their browser history to hide what they are doing online from their parents.

And more than half (55%) have visited websites they knew their parents would disapprove of.

Of particular concern is that more than one in 10 said they met up with somebody they first contacted online.

One in 10 teenagers also admitted to having posted revealing pictures of themselves online, with 12% posting a comment containing foul language.

Results of the survey were released in Dublin yesterday by McAfee, the world’s largest dedicated security company, when it launched an online safety programme across Ireland.

McAfee, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Intel, said more work needs to be done to educate teenagers on the risks associated with “over-sharing” on the internet.

McAfee’s Online Safety for Kids programme in Ireland was launched at a press conference at Government Buildings attended by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald. The security company’s goal is to reach more than 10,000 young people, parents and teachers next year.

The Taoiseach commended McAfee for launching the online safety initiative.

“The result of the ... survey will be a cause of concern among some parents but information and education are the way forward,” he said.

McAfee launched a pilot programme in Cork in January and 80 McAfee volunteers have taught at more than 30 schools and community centres, reaching more than 3,000 young people, parents and teachers. McAfee will be using the power of Intel to increase the army of volunteers who will teach online safety in schools.

Over the next year, McAfee will also produce materials that can be used by teacher organisations, the Department of Education and Skills, and teacher education providers.

The principal of Scoil Chaitriona in Dublin, Siobhán Weekes, said Chris Lyons from McAfee had spoken to sixth class pupils about keeping safe online.

“The children were warned that what they were putting online was very accessible and, from a school’s point of view, it helps us that they are hearing that. Chris got the day off and came up from Cork to talk to the pupils. He was very cool, very hip, and was able to connect to the students.”

Fine Gael’s Patrick O’Donovan said Justice Minister Alan Shatter should consider legislation being proposed in New Zealand to combat cyber- bullying that will make “incitement to commit suicide” an offence.

Safety first in cyberspace

What parents can do to keep their teenagers practising safe online behaviour.

* Have frequent conversations with their children about the choices they are making online and the risks and consequences of their actions.

* Be diligent about setting up parental controls and ensure children do not find a way round them.

* Be upfront about the monitors and controls on internet devices so teenagers think twice about their online activities.


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