Almost one in five young children are spending more than four hours per day online and some are in contact with strangers through gaming or social media, child internet safety charity CyberSafeIreland has warned.
Calling for greater priority to be given to internet safety education, CyberSafeIreland said according to a survey it carried out most national school teachers do not feel equipped to educate children on internet safety.
While many connections are harmless, CyberSafeIreland says there are cases where the contact is of significant concern, particularly for the 5% of children who are in touch with a stranger daily. In all, 28% of the children surveyed are in contact with a stranger either occasionally or every day though through online gaming or accepting social media requests from people they do not know.
Snapchat and Instagram are the most popular instant messaging and social media apps along with YouTube on the list of the 2,000-plus children surveyed.
“It is of concern how many children are making contact with strangers on the internet and the volume of time some young children are spending online each day is not healthy,” said CyberSafeIreland CEO Alex Cooney.
He said the internet presents increasing opportunities for sexual predators to meet and groom children online.
“Teachers in our national schools are telling us they don’t feel adequately resourced to deliver key messages,” he said. “Online safety education needs to be addressed on an ongoing basis and not just during safer internet day or once-off events.”
The survey found 64% of teachers do not feel sufficiently resourced to effectively deliver educational messages on internet safety.
Calling for priority to be given at government level on internet safety education, Mr Cooney said it is needed to ensure children in Ireland are better equipped to manage the dangers but also make the most of the opportunities online.
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