Half of all parents want online safety taught to junior infants

Half of all parents want online safety taught to junior infants

Almost all parents say online safety should be part of the school curriculum, with half saying it should start at junior infant level. File Picture.

Almost all parents think online safety should be a compulsory part of the school curriculum, and more than half of those who responded to a survey conducted by Barnardos said it should start as early as Junior Infants.

The children's charity has conducted a nationwide survey which found children were also fearful of having embarrassing photos shared on social media or receiving mean messages from others.

The survey was undertaken as part of the Barnardos Online Safety Programme and completes the first year of a four year partnership between it and Google.

According to the survey, which focuses on children, young people, teachers and parents and their views on digital wellbeing, the top two concerns cited by children and young people were the fear that an embarrassing picture would be shared on social media (40%), and receiving mean messages or being excluded from groups by friends (37%).

Other concerns voiced by children included mean messages from strangers online in games or on social media (32%), seeing something scary or upsetting online (32%) and not knowing if things are true online (28%).

One teenage girl told Barnardos: "Being excluded by friends; a lot of things are organised over text, like meet ups and activities. It is hard to ask your friends, “am I being excluded from a group chat” without them thinking you are clingy or intrusive."

Teachers said their top concerns were excessive screen time resulting in tiredness that impacts children’s schooling, the playing of inappropriate games, and cyberbullying. 

Parents’ main concerns were cyberbullying, accessing inappropriate materials and their children speaking to strangers.

Over half of parents felt between the ages of five and six years old was the appropriate age for children to start learning about online safety in an age-appropriate way.

The Online Safety Survey took place in June and had more than 400 respondents. Many of the findings echo those outlined in the recent annual report of CyberSafeIreland.

Online Safety Programme Training Executive Cliodhna Purdue said: “The concerns highlighted across the survey varied from each group, but the one defining factor was that everyone agreed that more online safety workshops are required by children and young people today. In fact, young people also said they would like their parents to understand their online world more so their parents could better support them online.” 

The Barnardos Online Safety Programme already addresses these issues through interactive workshops for both primary and secondary students. 

In its pilot year, Barnardos were on track to deliver online safety workshops to 103 schools and hopes to double this in year two, with a special focus on digital wellbeing.

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