Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children Charlie McConalogue has described as ‘very disturbing’ revelations of a surge in the number of young children accessing pornography online and dangerous internet sites.
Deputy McConalogue has called for greater cohesion between government departments, schools and parents in order to face the growing risks posed by technological advancements.
“We are seeing an alarming increase in the number of very young children regularly accessing unsuitable and dangerous material on the internet. There is an onus on all of us to tackle this very serious problem, which appears to be contributing to an increase in self-harm and eating disorders among children as well as an unhealthy attitude towards sex.
“While I support calls for an ‘opt-in’ system requiring adults to inform their Internet Service Providers (ISPs) if they wish to access adult material, this is not enough. The fact is that the vast bulk of modern internet browsers have easily accessible and reasonably effective parental controls. But in many cases, parents are not fully aware of these or do not know how to use them.
“The previous government established the Office for Internet Safety in 2008 which is run out of the Department of Justice. What we need is for greater involvement from the Department of Education in the activities of this office, with a view to supporting parents in taking a more active role in their children’s internet use. The problem is that in most families, children are more IT literate than their parents. I am calling on the government to put together a simple information leaflet for parents on how they can safely control their children’s internet use, to be distributed directly by schools.
“I am also calling for a review of sex education in our schools. The increased access to hard core pornography is giving the younger generation a highly distorted view of self-image and of sex. In my view, there is a gulf between the information children are now accessing themselves online and the information and supports that schools are required to provide. I am calling on the Education Minister Ruairí Quinn to outline any plans for reviewing or updating the sex education programme at both primary and secondary level.”