ISPCC concerned as young children report unsupervised access to internet

Children as young as five are being allowed unlimited and unsupervised access to the internet, according to the ISPCC.

The charity has said that it is seeing disturbing trends in children and young people's online activities.

ISPCC support workers highlighted that young people show a lack of empathy when comments are posted online compared to if they were face to face with someone. In some cases, children think that the purpose of social media is to taunt and insult others and that this is the normal behaviour online as this is what they may be viewing on a regular basis.

ISPCC case workers have also noticed an increase in young people engaging with strangers online, and sometimes sending photographs.

CEO Grainia Long said that a survey of young people has found their online activity is largely unmonitored.

"Evidence from our services shows the scale and nature of online activity by children and young people, and how much work is needed to keep them safe online," she said.

"Partnerships between industry, the education sector and government will be key. But we must also modernize our laws to reflect the online reality.

"There is an urgent need for law reform in this area to address the gaps in cybercrime legislation, to improve practice and to afford children greater protection online.

"Cyber safety is the child protection issue of our time; we are only beginning to understand the scale and nature of harm and criminal behaviour towards children online.

"However, we also appreciate the positive impact that technology has on the lives of young people but our work has informed us that our education system and society are failing to prepare children to identify and understand online risks.

"Children are at risk online – from bullying, accessing inappropriate material and in the most egregious cases, from abuse. Law reform and a range of education measures are undoubtedly required.

"This conference will provide the stepping stone to ensuring the children of Ireland have our support and enjoy protection online.

"We would like to thank Vodafone for their support on the issue and for the positive way they are contributing to protecting children online."

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