Increased use of technology by children in lockdown raises risks of grooming and online bullying
Increased use of technology by children in lockdown raises risks of grooming and online bullying

CyberSafeIreland is delighted to be launching its first radio ads across the airwaves this week, in partnership with Choose Radio, IAPI and GroupM, with the aim of raising awareness amongst parents about the simple steps they can take to support their kids to be safe and smart online.

Access to technology has greatly facilitated life in lockdown in Ireland, but has also increased the likelihood of children being exposed to privacy, grooming and online bullying risks. A Report from the World Health Organisation, published in May, found that Irish 13 and 15 year olds are in the top 10 across Europe and North America for prevalence of cyberbullying and “problematic social media use”.

Before lockdown, most children we surveyed were spending 0 – 1 hours a day (33%) and 1 – 2 hours online every day (31%); 17% of children were spending 2 – 4 hours online every day and a small but worrying proportion (12%) were online for more than 4 hours a day.

The reality is now that most children will have spent significantly more time online as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, for learning, socialising and entertainment. 95% of parents that we surveyed during the crisis estimate that their children are spending more time online, with 50% responding that their kids are spending 1 – 2 hours more online per day, with a further 14% reporting 2 – 3 additional hours.

Online access provides a range of apparent opportunities but there are also inherent risks, particularly for children, including loss of personal data and privacy through oversharing, cyberbullying, sextortion and grooming. A Europol Report, published in April, indicated that predators are using the Covid-19 crisis to search for and trade sexual images of children online. These predators know children will be spending more time online during this period of social isolation, and are sharing this vulnerability in chatrooms with like-minded individuals, including discussion about the best channels for reaching them.

This is why it is essential that we find ways to equip parents to better support and guide their children in the Digital Age. CyberSafeIreland’s Head of Education Philip Arneill, says:

“As parents and educators, we need to be doing a lot more to prepare children and young people for online life and their connected future, enabling them to engage in smarter, safer, more responsible behaviour. We also need the government to prioritise and invest more in supporting appropriate online safety education. This will help ensure children in Ireland are better equipped to not only make the most of the opportunities online, but also better manage the risks and dangers.”

The ad campaign was developed by Jack Connolly and Emily Carew from GroupM from their winning concept submitted in the Media Category of the IAPI 2020 Cannes Young Lions competition. The campaign will run for 3 weeks (from 15th June to 3rd July) on national and local radio and was produced by the generous support of Choose Radio, who were the category sponsors.

Gabrielle Cummins, Chair of Choose Radio highlights that:

“Radio is such a powerful platform. Every radio station in Ireland is involved in supporting this important initiative from CyberSafeIreland so we have no doubt that 3.1 million listeners will become more educated as a result of this ad campaign. In addition, parents who are listeners will learn how to easily access the right support which will facilitate them to be better equipped to provide the necessary protection for their children. We have worked with so many charities in the past and the positive results have always been impressive so we’re confident this latest campaign for CyberSafeIreland will return worthwhile outcomes for the charity.”

Listen to the campaign below.

Additional CyberSafeIreland Resources
Additional CyberSafeIreland Resources

In addition to webinars aimed at parents focused on healthy online use, CyberSafeIreland is currently running Summer Bootcamps for children, with a focus on equipping them with the skills to be smarter and safer online. Delivered live, the sessions are interactive and engaging, using a child-centred, problem-solving approach to teach children how to be safe and ensure they have a positive experience online.

Topics include:

  • managing personal information;
  • setting up accounts safely;
  • privacy settings;
  • social media and gaming;
  • misinformation and critical thinking;
  • digital footprint and;
  • cyberbullying