Social media

Children spend equivalent of 61 days a year online – report

Almost half of children speak to strangers online
Image: CSO Online

10 September 2019

Approximately 12% of eight-year-olds spend more than four hours online each day, is equivalent to spending 61 days a year. This is according to the latest anual report from CyberSafeIreland’s latest annual report.

The screen time problem increases with age as 15% of 12-year-olds admitted to spending roughly the same time online. Boys were found to more time online than girls; 15% spending more than four hours each day online, compared to 9% of girls.

As 92% of children own a smart device, most can connect to the internet and be active online. Children with their own devices are more likely to be signed up to social media or messaging apps than those without (67% versus 24%).




Social media

The report – which was based on a poll of 3,800 children aged between eight and 13 – found that 60% of children had some kind of social media presence, including 48% of eight-year olds and 68% of 11-year-olds.

Snapchat was reported the most popular social media app within this age group, followed by WhatsApp, Instagram and Tiktok.

The data showed that children are engaging with materials that are not age appropriate. A high proportion of boys play over 18s games, and in doing so, expose themselves to violent and sexual content. This includes 36% of eight-year-old boys and 43% of 10-year-old boys. Furthermore, 43% of children talk to strangers online, and a third do so on a daily or weekly basis.

The findings highlighted the fact that most teachers (59%) have had to deal with online safety incidences, like cyber-bullying, in class. However, the majority of teachers (52%) said they felt inadequately equipped to teach online safety.

A significant proportion of children said they were not getting this at home. A mere 36% or resondents said they rarely or never talked to their parents about online safely, notably those aged eight (45%) and nine (39%).

National campaign

According to CyberSafeIreland, a national campaign is needed to provide parents and teachers with the necessary information and supports to keep children safe online.

“We are urging the government to establish a long-term strategy that includes strong and effective measures on education, public awareness and regulation,” said Alex Cooney, chief executive, CyberSafeIreland. “The online service providers benefit so much from their users, without having to take the full degree of responsibility that they should. So much more needs to be done and given the number of kids who are active online, time is of the essence.”

In response to the report’s findings, CyberSafeIreland says parents should discuss cyber safety with their children once they show interest in smart devices. They should research the apps and games that their kids want to use and establish if they facilitate chat. They should then put boundaries in place and enforce them consistently. Most importantly, parents should keep an eye on what their children are doing online.  

“While technology undoubtedly brings social and educational benefits, it is vital that screen time is monitored and that it is balanced appropriately with all the other aspects that contribute to a healthy lifestyle,” said Philip Arneill, head of education & innovation, CyberSafeIreland.

“It is imperative that parents and teachers are able to equip children with all the relevant skills to keep themselves safe given the many risks that they face.” 

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