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Should children under the age of 14 be allowed to have a mobile phone & Internet access? low?

According to new research children in Ireland are putting themselves at risk by contacting strangers online.

Figures released today by CyberSafeIreland, the children’s internet safety charity, show that one-third of children regularly contact strangers online.

The research, which surveyed 1,500 children aged between 8 and 13 from September to November 2017, also found that over one-third of children rarely or never talk to their parents about online safety.

Of this group without parental engagement, over 34% are in regular contact with a stranger online and 50% use social media and messaging apps that are meant to be inaccessible to users under 13 years of age.

The survey found that 67% of children aged between 8 and 13 own a smartphone and over a quarter (28%) are spending more than two hours per day online, with widespread (69%) use of social media and messaging apps like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

Ahead of Safer Internet Day, which is happening today, a leaflet with advice about keeping children safe online – covering privacy and health concerns – was sent to all primary schools across the country.

I am going to speak to Avril Ronan from Cybersafe Ireland about keeping kids safe online but before I do I want to ask you about children having access to the internt and if you think it should be limited to a certain age.

Last week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar defended the government’s decision to set the digital age of consent at 13, saying it was based on advice from children’s charities and the Children’s Ombudsman.

However, he said he understands that the issue is a cause of concern for parents.

The digital age of consent, which was agreed by the Cabinet last summer, refers to the age from which it is legal for data controllers to hold data gathered on children and teenagers. For children under the age of 13, parental consent will be required.

It could be argued that 13 has been the de facto age of digital consent for some time in Ireland – it’s the minimum age for setting up a Facebook account, for example. However, the age had to be officially set before the EU General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect on 25 May 2018.

Keeping children safe online has been in the spotlight recently after a number of high profile cases, and Communications Minister Denis Naughten recently said the government is moving towards appointing a Digital Safety Commissioner.

The Government are also going to examine proposals for age limits on smartphones. Varadkar said an age limit for the devices was definitely something he will give consideration to and examine.

Today I want to know if you think under 14s should be banned from the internet and from having a smart phone.

Or so you think that is too restrictive?

It has been argued in the past that teenagers do not fully understand the ramifications of posting online for the world to see. The dangers of bullying, revenge porn, and in very extreme cases suicide is something linked to the internet that we cannot ignore.

So – should we keep them away from the internet and social media for as long as we possibly can?

Or do you think we need to embrace social media and the internet and let children be a part of it.

I want to know what you think –

So – do you think the digital age of consent being set at 13 is too low?

Remember you can find more stories on the Niall Boylan Facebook and Twitter pages and remember #IrelandTalks4fm

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