Safety online a major worry for children’s and youth groups.

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Charities call for Next Programme for Government to ensure safety online 

#ChildSafetyOnline

Today (11.02.2020) on Safer Internet Day 2020, Children and Youth Charities (Barnardos, Children’s Rights Alliance, CyberSafeIreland, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, One in Four, the ISPCC and SpunOut.ie) are joining forces to highlight child safety online, and the need for online safety for children and young people to remain a high priority in the next Programme for Government. 

Building on the progress already made by Government, the children’s and youth charities have come together to focus attention on the issues that need addressing across three areas including regulation, empowerment/education, and enforcement; and to propose their recommendations to the new Government to be undertaken in their first 100 days. 

Children now make up one-third of global users on the internet. Most children and young people accessing the digital world have enjoyable experiences: it can help them to maintain their friendships and can contribute to their education. However, it can also lead to serious issues affecting their development, welfare and rights, making online safety the child protection issue of our time. Some of the worst instances include children being exposed to grooming or sexual exploitation; inappropriate content such as pornography, extreme dieting and self-harm websites; and revenge porn tactics. 

The Children’s Rights Alliance members are proposing the following recommendations be put into action in the first 100 days and included in the next Programme for Government: 

Overall

Develop a 5-year Digital Safety Strategy that encapsulates the below asks and delivers timebound outcomes against each area – possibly captured in the next Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures National Policy Framework (2021 – 2025).

Regulate 

Establishment of a Digital Safety Commissioner

  • Publish a General Scheme of a Bill providing for the establishment of a Digital Safety Commissioner. 

Ensure that digital rights and online safety are central to the next Children and Young people’s Strategy

  • Establish a dedicated implementation team and budget in the next Children and Young people’s Strategy. 

Empower

Comprehensive Digital Literacy Programme in Formal and Non-Formal Education

  • Develop a digital literacy programme for formal education (primary and secondary schools) and non-formal education (youth work setting) and implement nationally over the lifetime of the Government. 

Enforce

Effectively Resourcing the Gardai to Investigate Crimes Involving Images of Child Sex Abuse

  • Conduct a review of resources required by the Gardai to investigate crimes involving images of child sex abuse and earmark sufficient funds to reduce detection/investigation times.

Suzanne Connolly, Chief Executive of Barnardos said: “We know from Barnardos work delivering online safety programmes in schools across Ireland that for a child, there is no difference between the offline and the online world. The next Government need to recognise the importance of prevention and early intervention in this context, and the need to empower children and parents through education – it is the key way to helping children be smart and safe, as well as resilient online.”

John Church, Chief Executive of ISPCC said: “It is vital that the next Programme for Government commits to implementing measures including the establishment of an Office of Digital Safety Commissioner, which will significantly help to enhance children’s online safety. Children have a right to be protected and this protection extends to being online. ISPCC Childline is acutely aware of the long-term and devastating consequences which harmful online content, for example, can have on children and young people. The onus must be on industry and providers to ensure the Internet is a safer place for all.”

Jack Deacon, Deputy Director of SpunOut.ie said: “The appointment of a digital or online safety commissioner must be a priority for any incoming Government. The blurred lines between children and young peoples’ online and offline experiences require a nuanced and proactive response and quite frankly Ireland is playing catch-up when we should be leaders in the area. A digital or online safety commissioner is urgently required to both regulate the online space, make it a safer place for our children and young people, and coordinate an effective education programme for children and parents. There is cross-party agreement on the solution, the incoming Government needs to ensure these solutions are implemented without delay.”

Alex Cooney, CEO of CyberSafeIreland said: “The fact that our latest survey data reveals that almost a third of young children have been upset by material encountered online should be a wakeup call to whoever emerges in Government after the General Election that we must get to grips with children’s internet use and access. There have been plenty of encouraging promises made in parties’ election manifestos, but the proof of their commitment will be seeing these translated into a Programme for Government with clear action points and timelines to both protect and empower our children in the online world.”

Details of the ‘Children’s Rights Alliance Programme for Government – Online Safety Asks’ can be found here

Photo caption:

Pictured at the event today were (L to R) Noeline Blackwell, Chief Executive Officer of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre; John Church, Chief Executive of ISPCC; Alex Cooney, CEO of CyberSafeIreland; Jack Deacon, Deputy Director of SpunOut.ie; Suzanne Connolly, Chief Executive of Barnardos; Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance; and Deirdre Kenny, Advocacy Director of One in Four.

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