A new report on children’s use of the internet launched to mark Safer Internet Day 2015 has found that Irish schools are considerably above the EU average in tackling internet safety issues amongst students.
According to the Net Children Go Mobile: Full findings from Ireland report compiled by Dr. Brian O’Neill and Thuy Dinh, (DIT):
- Instagram is the most popular media-sharing platform and is reported by 42% of 9-16 year olds as the platform they use most often for sharing photos.
- One in five children (20%) report that they have been bothered by something on the internet in the past year, a figure which has more than doubled since 2011.
- Smartphones stand out as the most used device for internet access on a daily basis by 9-16 year olds in all contexts. Smartphones (35%) followed by laptops (29%) and tablets (27%) are the devices most used most to go online.
Risk and Harm
- Overall, 1 in 5 children in Ireland (20%) say that they have been bothered by something online in the past year (20%). This is double the percentage (10%) reported by Irish 9-16 year olds in the EU Kids Online survey in 2011
- Incidence of bullying in Ireland has not increased since the EU Kids Online survey and remains close to the European average. However, cyber bullying is now more prevalent than face-to-face bullying (13% now compared to 4% in 2011), and this occurs most commonly on social networking services (SNS).
- Seeing sexual images (online or offline) has also increased (17% to 21% of 9- to 16-year-olds) but is still below the European average (28%). In 2011 traditional mass media were more common channels for encountering these images, but now SNS is as common a source of pornography, follow by video, TV.
- As regards other risks, children now encounter more negative user-generated content than in 2011 (from 12% to 16%). However, this is much lower than the European average of 25%.
- Overall, since 2011 some risks have increased and others have decreased. In responding to risks in general, Irish children are much more likely than the European average to talk to others about problematic experiences. However, some 17% of Irish children do not tell anyone.
- As already noted in the EU Kids Online survey, bullying is still the most harmful risky experience: 17% of children (out of 22%) who have been bullied on- or offline claim they have been ‘very’ or ‘a bit’ upset.
- Sexual risks are the second most upsetting of harmful online experiences though less than half of the children who have seen sexual images and of those who have seen sexual content of any kind (on and offline) have been bothered.
Support and Mediation
- The findings suggest that Irish parents engage more in active mediation of internet safety (87%), making it the most common intervention by parents and much higher than the European average (77%).
- With regard to teacher mediation, in many ways teachers are as supportive as parents helping with and providing guidance about the internet. Compared to 2011, there is an increased level of teacher support across different types of mediation. In comparison to other countries, Irish teachers still do considerably more than the European average (89% vs. 69%)
Access and Skills
- The main change to note in children’s online activities is that they simply do more of everything online compared to a few years ago. The more children use the internet, the more opportunities they take up and the more skills they develop.
- The technological environment is changing rapidly, for children as well as for adults. Mobile devices to access the internet have become more prevalent, and it is perhaps no surprise that the most popular device used by children to go online is the smartphone. Meanwhile, use of the desktop PC has halved since the EU Kids Online survey, but there is still considerable use of larger screen devices, as shown by the fact that use of laptop computers is second only to the smartphone.
- It is interesting that most of children’s online access continues to be from the home, in part because the device is a personal and private one. Despite being the device most likely to be used on the move, smartphones are mainly used at home, more often in the privacy of the child’s own bedroom.
- 72% of Irish children use the internet daily at home: domestic access to the internet (in own bedroom or elsewhere at home) increases with age, rising from 53% of 9-10 year-olds to 92% of younger teenagers. Mobile internet users are much more likely to use the internet at home every day (93% for smartphone users and 95% for tablet users) than children who don’t use smartphones or tablets to go online (52%). These findings suggest that the internet is more thoroughly embedded in the lives of children who have access to mobile devices to go online.
- Gender differences in access and use are noteworthy. As they grow older, girls are more likely than boys to go online using laptops and tablets and other handheld devices while boys still favour game consoles. This was also strongly reflected in our qualitative interviews.
- In the period since the EU Kids Online survey, levels of internet skills, including safety skills have increased. However, compared to other European countries, they remain close to the average. In general, smartphones users claim to be more skilled.
- Smartphone and tablet users use the internet more, both at home (as well as in all the locations asked about), are more likely to engage in the activities we measured and claim nearly twice as many skills as children who don’t use mobile devices to go online.