Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Children & Youth Affairs Robert Troy has called for urgent action to be taken following reports that photos of young Irish girls are appearing on international pornography websites without their or their parents’ knowledge.

Deputy Troy commented, “The issues raised in a Prime Time programme, due to be aired tonight, are extremely alarming and must act as a wake-up call to parents, young people and the Government.  Advances in technology and the widespread availability of social media has led to a massive upsurge in the number of children and teenagers online without any supervision.  The anonymous nature of many of these sites can leave these children exposed to potential sexual predators.

“While the Government has a role to play in bringing forward legislation to tackle online grooming, cyber abuse and cyber bullying, more needs to be done to educate parents and teenagers about the dangers of the internet and to enable them to mitigate the risks associated with posting photos online.

“Minister James Reilly has all but ignored the issue of online child grooming, cyber bullying and abuse since he was appointed Children’s Minister.  Despite a draft bill on sexual offences brought forward by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald last week, there is currently no internet grooming offence here.  The revelations contained in the Prime Time report make for uncomfortable viewing and will emphasise the need for action in this area.

“Minister Reilly should engage with the Office for Internet Safety to devise and resource an education and information programme for parents and children to advise them on privacy issues and advise them on how best to stay safe online.  The Office could also convene a forum with internet service providers and social media operations to establish if they can play a more substantial role in reducing online abuse.

“A two pronged legislative and educational approach is needed if the Government is serious about tackling this heinous crime.  Both Ministers must move swiftly on this issue and I will be raising the matter until we see concrete action to deal with the perpetrators of these offences”.