More than 90 percent of children between the ages of eight and 12 own a device that can connect to the Internet, and most have been in contact with strangers online, according to a report released Thursday by an Internet security charity.
Research from CyberSafe Ireland has found that 65% of pre-teen killers are at least 13 years old on the most popular platforms on social media and 16 years of age in the digital age of consent in Ireland. About a third have friends or followers on social media who don’t know you in real life.
In a survey of 3,764 children between the ages of eight and 12 in schools last academic year, 93 percent found owning a smart device – an 8 percent increase over the previous year.
Sixty-one percent commented that 31 percent of children play online games with strangers in real life. Sixty-one percent said they had been in contact with strangers within such a game. Boys are more likely to have sex than girls.
The charity said it was “particularly alarming” to find that 30 percent of children have friends or followers on social media platforms they do not know in real life.
The researchers asked if they had ever seen children online, disturbing or intimidating them or wishing they had not seen it. One-third said children had seen such content, and 12 percent said they were not sure.
This indicates that 57 per cent of children who have encountered online harassing content have reported it to a parent or trusted adult, but one in five said they kept it to themselves, which the charity describes as “anxiety.”
“Locked down means more people, including children, rely more on our tools for work, education and leisure,” said Alex Cooney, chief executive of CyberSafe Ireland.
As the benefits of technology become “more obvious, we need to be aware of the risks that all users, especially children, encounter online” and work to “mitigate against them”.