Over a third of Irish children play online games with strangers, according to CyberSafeKids

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According to CyberSafeKids’ annual report, one in three tweens play video games online with people they don’t know.

CyberSafeKids found that 93% of children have their own smart devices.

They surveyed 3,904 children aged 8 to 12 and found that online games are played by 80% of 8 to 12 year olds.

A large number of children surveyed (84%) reported using social media and instant messaging apps, despite the minimum age restrictions on all popular apps of at least 13 years old.

The most popular apps were YouTube, TikTok, WhatsApp, and Snapchat. 80% of kids on TikTok post videos of themselves on the app.

The Children’s Internet Safety Charity also found that 61% of children said they had been contacted by a stranger in an online game, with more boys than girls (68% boys vs. 56% girls. ).

CyberSafeKids adviser Professor Brian O’Neill of TU Dublin said: “As Covid-19 has demonstrated, digital technologies are now at the heart of the way we live our lives, without which we fight for enjoy the normal things of everyday life.

“But just as digital has become essential in our lives and in the lives of children aged 8 to 12, so too has the need for detailed, specific and targeted skills in online safety.

“CyberSafeKids fills a critical gap in supporting children in this age group and, thanks to the type of research demonstrated in this review, is able to respond in an age-appropriate and sensitive manner to children’s obvious desire for be more confident and competent in their digital journey. “

Meanwhile, CyberSafeKids CEO Alex Cooney said, “In a year of Covid-19 lockdown, we are seeing a large number of pre-teens owning devices and being active online.

“Unfortunately, a significant number of children have negative experiences, including 29% of children reporting at least one experience of bullying.

“While online gaming is clearly an extremely popular activity for this age group, it also poses risks, with more than a third of children playing games with strangers and a noticeable increase over time. last year.

“A national campaign is needed to provide parents and teachers with the information and support they need to help children have safe and positive experiences online.

“The Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill must give users more power over content that has caused them harm and further push social media and gaming platforms to remove that content quickly and efficiently. “

The survey also asked children if they had seen anything online that they wouldn’t want their parents to know and almost a quarter (22%) said “yes”.

They were also asked if they had ever come across any online content that upset or scared them and a quarter said yes.

The report points out that among children who encountered disturbing content online, most children (54%) reported it to a parent, but 30% of children said they kept it to themselves.

In terms of the impact on schools, the report highlights that most teachers (61%) experience online security incidents such as cyberbullying in their classrooms.

For more information on CyberSafeKids, visit www.cybersafekids.ie.

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