Fianna Fáil Seanad Spokesperson on Education Robbie Gallagher says more supports are needed to help parents and communities promote better online safety.  He made the comments on Safer Internet Day.

Senator Gallagher said, “The rise of digital and social media has led to increased anxiety among some parents who are worried about their children’s online safety.  A recent report from National Anti-Bullying Centre at DCU revealed that 1 in 10 children say they’ve been cyberbullied, confirms many of their fears and while parents want to take steps to protect their kids online, they do not know how to go about it.

“Parents are usually well aware of how much time their kids are spending online, but are not always sure what they’re accessing.  This needs to change, and better supports are needed to help them familiarise themselves with the technology.

“As well as educational supports for children and their parents, tougher legislation is also needed to bring the perpetrators of cyber bullying, grooming and other online abuse to justice. The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 must be brought forward without delay. This Bill broadens the definition of child abuse to incorporate digital and online crime.  This legislation is particularly important as without a strong legal support system, it is impossible to protect our children from online dangers.

“The ever changing social media landscape, the prevalence of smartphones and the constant availability of online services means many of the safety guidelines that parents, teachers and communities would have used have become out-dated and impractical. We need to adopt a new multi-faceted approach to tackling online safety, incorporating kids, parents, teachers and community groups, and I along with my colleagues will be examining a model to bring about an improved internet safety campaign”.