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Digital divide between parents and children

Posted by Schooldays Newshound, on 09/02/2016. Digital divide between parents and childrenTags: Parenting

New research released by the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre at Dublin City University, ahead of Safer Internet Day (9th February), has flagged up some worrying trends in internet safety for Irish children, and has been welcomed as a “wake up call” by many of the research participants.

DCU Anti-Bullying Centre’s new survey of 900 Irish parents points to :

  •  A growing digital divide between parents and children especially on social media 
  • Parental over-reliance on their children’s accounts of what they do online
  • Low rate (< 20%) of parental supervision of their children on social networks
  • Over half of parents expressed a frustrating lack of knowledge about privacy techniques, filtering and password controls
  • Younger engagement - 52% of 6-8 year olds have Internet access and 21% can download/install software

    While parents are familiar with social media giant, Facebook, they do not interact on other social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat which are popular among pre-teens and teens.

    Researchers from DCU found signs of a 'digital deceit' trend among pre-teens and teens online. Dr James O'Higgins Norman warns parents not to rely solely on their children's own accounts regarding their online activity. Dr James O’Higgins, Director of the Anti-Bullying Centre at DCU,  reiterated the following advice to parents:

  •  Talk and listen to your children about their use of internet and social media
  •  Set up email and chat accounts with your children. Make sure that you know their screen names and passwords and that they don't include any personal information in their online profiles.
  •  Take time to discuss cyberbullying and online harassment with your children and do not be afraid to ask them if they have ever been involved as a bully, victim or bystander
  •  Tell your children that you won't blame them if they are cyberbullied.  Emphasise that you won't take away their computer privileges - this is the main reason kids don't tell adults when they are cyberbullied.

    Separately, a new organisation, CyberSafe Ireland has officially launched today to coincide with Safer Internet Day 2016. CyberSafeIreland is rolling out a programme of education to children in 4th to 6th class (aged 9 to 13) providing practical advice on how to embrace the opportunities for learning and enjoyment that technology can deliver, whilst equipping them with the tools to avoid harm.

    Training sessions are designed to teach children and their parents how to use the internet without engaging in risky behaviour, how to protect themselves by using privacy settings, and how to report abuse.

    CyberSafeIreland is aiming to provide classes in 80 schools in its first year, rising to 375 schools by 2018, and will be prioritising training in DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) designated schools to deliver its mission to prioritise the most vulnerable children. 

    Cliona Curley, cybercrime expert and co-founder of CyberSafeIreland said:

    “Research shows that 26% of pre-teens are using social networking sites and half of these admitted to lying about their age. From our experience talking to kids in schools, this is only the tip of the iceberg and usage of social media apps is now a daily feature of most pre-teens lives.

    As parents and educators, we need to be doing a lot more to prepare young children for a connected future, enabling them to engage online in a safe and responsible manner, and expert support is needed to do this in an effective way.

    In theory no one under the age of 13 is using social media sites, but it is easy for a child to lie about their age to set up an account. Whilst children who claim to be aged 13-18 are often covered by protections such as privacy settings defaulting to maximum privacy, if a child has claimed they are over 18 they won’t even have this protection and will be making themselves vulnerable through sharing private information with strangers.

    As a parent I find it deeply worrying that nearly one in five pre-teens have been in contact with a stranger online, and a similar proportion have been upset by some form of bullying”

    If you are worried about your child online, check out our section on Internet Safety for kids and our Internet Safety section for teens.


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