Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children & Youth Affairs Anne Rabbitte is calling for additional supports for parents to enable them protect their children online. The Galway East TD says many parents are worried about their children’s online activity, and are especially concerned about cyber-bullying and grooming.
Deputy Rabbitte explained, “The ever evolving digital environment means parents can often feel on the back-foot when it comes to protecting their children online, and has created a real fear about cyber-bullying, grooming and access to porn. Parents are often well aware of how much time their kids are spending online, but less familiar with what they’re accessing. Parents need to familiarise themselves with the technology their children are using but there also needs to be more information and supports out there to help them do that.
“The findings of a recent report by the National Anti-Bullying Centre at DCU, which revealed that 1 in 10 children have been cyberbullied is particularly worrying and highlights the need for tougher legislation to clamp down on the perpetrators of these terrible crimes.
“In terms of legislation, the most important next step is that the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 is brought forward. This piece of legislation makes crucial strides toward broadening our definitions of child abuse to reflect the changes that our digital era has precipitated. This legislation will increase the powers of investigation in cases where child sexual abuse occurs online. This is particularly important, as in the absence of a strong and current legal support system, it is impossible to protect our children from online dangers. This Bill will hopefully be passed in the near future, and I hope the Government moves swiftly to ensure its implementation.
“The increased prevalence of social media, smartphones, and almost constant internet access, much of the advice we dole out to parents and educators has become out-dated and impractical. As a member of the Oireachtas Committee on Children & Youth Affairs, I will be exploring new ways of engaging children and young people, as well as their parents, guardians, and teachers, on the issue of internet safety. Peer to peer and parental education, along with new child-centred programmes must form the backbone of a new, improved internet safety campaign”.