Around three-quarters (72%) of parents are concerned that their child spends too much time online.
However, while this is the most common concern for parents when it comes to the internet and their children, it is not the gravest.
In a Webwise survey conducted to mark Safer Internet Day, parents named the things concerning them the most in relation to their child being online.
Four main risks emerged as being of equal concern to parents, with 21% saying cyberbullying is their biggest worry; 20% said their child spending too much time online is the gravest issue; 20% worried about their child being groomed or sexual exploited online; and 19% of parents listed “accessing pornographic content” as their deepest concern.
Parents also said that they moderate their child’s internet use, with 73% setting time limits.
However, despite the concerns and restrictions that they may place on web usage in their home, 74% of parents believe that using the internet is important for their child’s education.
While Webwise is the Irish Internet Safety Awareness Centre and is funded by the Department of Education and Skills and the EU Safer Internet Programme, it is an initiative of the Professional Development Support Service for Teachers (PDST).
Ciara O’Donnell, national director of PDST, said it is important to note that the internet is a useful tool in society.
She said: “I think it’s important above all, that we all remember that the positive aspects of the internet do outweigh the negative.
“So the internet is to be celebrated and commended as an excellent educational and recreational resource but what we want is that children will be encouraged to use it for the right reasons and to explore the internet to its full potential.”
Also speaking at the launch of the survey, which took place in Facebook’s Irish headquarters, was Dr John Sharry, child and family psychotherapist.
“People aren’t talking at home anymore; [children are] talking to their parents less, parents are talking less to their children, they’re all stuck in front of screens. So I don’t think you can overstate the risks. I think they need to be front and centre for every parent thinking about it but there are also all the benefits,” he said.
Jane Hayes-Nally, a fifth-year student from Cork and president of the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union, said parents are perhaps not completely aware of what teenagers’ concerns are around the internet: “Sexual exploitation online, things like revenge porn, things like nude-trading [the virtual exchange of photos of your naked body] — these are huge issues because they can ruin a young person’s life if they are leaked or exchanged.”
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