ISPCC, Vodafone

ISPCC report highlights trends in risks to children online

Life
Pictured: Ben (12) and Ruby (9) Sweeney O’Brien with Grace McCann Goldrick (8)

19 December 2016

A case review by the ISPCC has found that young people show a lack of empathy when comments are posted online compared to if they were face to face with someone and that In some cases children think the purpose of social media is to taunt and insult others.

The review took place in July 2016 as part of a partnership with Vodafone aiming to update national law, policy and practice in the field of online child protection.

Other findings showed that children young as five years-of-age reported having unlimited and unsupervised access to the Internet and were often viewing age-inappropriate, violent or pornographic material online

Staff across the ISPCC reported extensive experience of working with young people showing high levels of stress and anxiety created by reputational damage from sending explicit images of themselves via text or over the Internet.

Grooming was highlighted as a concern for parents calling the ISPCC Support Line. In one particular case, a parent phoned the service for support after they were made aware that their child was being groomed by an online paedophile ring.

ISPCC chief executive Grainia Long said: “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. Partnerships between industry, the education sector and government will be key. But we must also modernise 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.”

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