On Wednesday 13th November, Dr. Sinead McDonagh from Safe Search Ireland gave a very informative talk on internet safety to members of the public in Acton’s Hotel in Kinsale. The talk was organised by Ger Rice, Health Support worker with Kinsale Youth Support Services (KYSS).
Dr McDonagh outlined how that a generation gap has emerged when we look at how we interact with technology. Young people have grown with technology, they are so confident with it, and they seem to have no fear, or ask ‘what if’ when posting details online. Research into online safety has shown that the majority of teenagers don’t have any discussion with their parents around safety online. Surely, parents must come to the realisation that these dangers must be highlighted before digital access is provided to our impressionable youth.
Dr. McDonagh discussed a variety of social networking sites, and gaming sites, and provided those present with some practical steps in setting boundaries appropriately. Having the default setting as private is a must, ensuring that personal information is not provided to those who would exploit it. There is a serious risk of oversharing images, trusting ‘friends’ of ‘friends’, who are actually strangers. We are all encouraged to stop, and think before we share details of photos, as these cannot be taken back when sent.
If chatting to someone online, there is no time filter, it’s in ‘real time’, so there is no margin for making an error of judgement. People may be encouraged or dared to engage in risky acts, and the subsequent footage may be used against them. The positive message is that help is available, that we can take control of these situations. Take a screengrab of anything sinister or offensive that has been posted, report to Gardai if you are concerned.
Parents must be active in supervising what their children are viewing online, there is a need to monitor behaviour to minimise the dangers that children are exposed to. All devices should be kept out of the bedroom, as parents, practise what you preach, set a good example. Studies have shown that spending excessive time online leads to a multitude of social behaviour problems. Sleep can be affected, it causes anxiety, depression and may reduce self-esteem.
Dr. McDonagh summed up by emphasising that, as parents, let your children know that they are not alone, listen to their concerns without losing your temper. Don’t reply, no matter how tempting, even as a parent. Report the issue, take a screengrab. Block the sender. Keep the conversation open with young people, the online world is here to stay. Further details, and additional supports can be accessed from Safe Search Ireland’s website www.safesearchireland.ie
For more information on internet safety & to see what resources are available - click on this pdf