Cyber-Safety Programme Needed To Protect Children

Dublin Fingal TD Alan Farrell said: “The increasing use of social media by our young people presents them with a number of challenges and dangers. In order to best protect our younger generations from these dangers, and prepare them to tackle these challenges, the Government must consider the establishment of a cyber-safety programme to be delivered in schools.

“We have all seen the positive impact that the Green-Schools Programme, which focuses on environmental matters, and the Blue Star Programme, championed by European Movement Ireland, have had in our schools.

"Building upon these models, there is no reason why a cyber-safety programme could not be just as beneficial for our young people today,” said the Fine Gael TD.

“Over the past number of months, the Oireachtas Committee on Children on Youth Affairs has heard from many stakeholders on the topic of cyber-safety, including students from Newbridge College and representatives from Comhairle na nÓg.

"Their contributions were eye-opening, and have highlighted the areas which must be addressed in order to protect our children today, and our younger generations into the future."

He points out that young people are becoming increasingly exposed to sexually graphic, and violent material online; sexting, cyber-bullying, and over-sharing online are becoming ever more prevalent.

“While we must be mindful that he internet is not a ‘bad place’, we must also be realistic about the challenges and dangers it can present," he said.

"We will not adequately protect our children, and some of our most vulnerable citizens by burying our heads in the sand and pretending challenges regarding online usage do not exist."

He added: “I believe that a cyber-safety programme for our schools must be developed in order to educate our younger citizens of the importance of implementing proper security settings on their social media accounts, and of the dangers associated with cyber-bullying, over-sharing online, sexting, and connecting with people they do not know on social media.

“We have a responsibility to ensure they know that supports are available to them should they ever find themselves in a negative scenario in this regard.

“In doing so, we must also acknowledge that when it comes to social media and apps on their phones, our young people are quite often the experts."

The Fine Gael TD said concluded: “We need to ensure adequate protection is in place for our young people, and that they are aware of the supports available to them such they ever encounter any of the dangers which exist online."