Minister for Education Norma Foley TD hosted a roundtable discussion with leaders and decision-makers of Ireland’s social media, technology and smartphone companies to progress work to help keep children and young people safe online.

The Minister welcomed attendees from companies including:

at the Clock Tower at the Department on Marlborough Street.

 

a white and blue square with a blue logo on it
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • Print
  • linkedin
  • Buffer
  • Gmail

Minister Foley discussed several issues, including the introduction of a robust age verification system to ensure that social media services are not used by children under the age of 13 and the attitude of mobile phone providers to her department’s smartphone policy.

Google logo
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • Print
  • linkedin
  • Buffer
  • Gmail

Other topics included:

  • effectiveness of controls in place to prevent access to harmful and inappropriate content,
  • the risk of children being duped by adults impersonating other children into sending inappropriate images online,
  • the potential harm caused by the use of filters on social media services, and
  • the speed of takedown procedures.

red and whites logo
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • Print
  • linkedin
  • Buffer
  • Gmail

The meeting follows Minister Foley’s launch last November of guidelines for primary school parents and parent associations who wished to create and implement voluntary codes around smartphone use among primary school children and builds on the commitments contained in Cineáltas: Action Plan on Bullying.

red and white honda motorcycle
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • Print
  • linkedin
  • Buffer
  • Gmail

Minister Foley thanked all the companies and organisations who attended:

I acknowledged the wonderful gift that technology, and social media in particular, can be for people.

Social media services have enormous power but with that comes enormous responsibility and a duty of care to young people. We had a very constructive and a very robust engagement.

I’m very conscious that social media services have an age limit of 13 in place but I know from engaging with parents and schools that there are children much younger than that using social media.

We need to have a robust system of age verification put in place and I am heartened by the fact that Coimisiún na Mean is examining this matter in its draft online safety code.

red and white open neon signage
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • Print
  • linkedin
  • Buffer
  • Gmail

Minister Foley also asked the mobile phone service providers present if they supported the principle of parents not buying smartphones for their children while in primary school.

That wasn’t forthcoming at this point in time, but they gave a commitment to engage again on this matter.

girl sitting using smartphone
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • Print
  • linkedin
  • Buffer
  • Gmail

Minister Foley said that it was a priority of hers to support parents, teachers and school communities in their endeavours to help keep children and young people safe online.

Crop anonymous cheerful little schoolgirl in casual clothes sitting at table in classroom and sharing video on smartphone with unrecognizable friend
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • Print
  • linkedin
  • Buffer
  • Gmail

Several resources are available to support with this.

I would also like to thank representatives of Webwise, who attended today’s meeting, for the wide range of information and advice they provide through their Internet Safety Programme, webinars and more.

Teachers, parents and guardians who would like support to help them start conversations around online safety with children and young people can access Webwise support by visiting webwise.ie.

Welcoming the work of her colleague, Minister Foley, Minister Rabbitte said:

The unfettered access to digital platforms has  detrimental effects on children, posing a range of challenges that impact their physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Exposure to inappropriate content, cyberbullying, and online predators are significant concerns that can lead to long-lasting psychological consequences.

selective color photography of person portraying of being fragile
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • Print
  • linkedin
  • Buffer
  • Gmail

Excessive screen time and the allure of social media can contribute to sedentary lifestyles, affecting children’s physical health and sleep patterns.

The addictive nature of certain digital content may also hinder academic performance and interpersonal relationships, as children may become increasingly absorbed in the virtual world.

men's white crew-neck top close-up photography
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • Print
  • linkedin
  • Buffer
  • Gmail

Additionally, the pressure to conform to online trends and standards may contribute to issues of self-esteem and body image.

Striking a balance between leveraging technology for educational purposes and mitigating its negative impacts requires concerted efforts from parents, educators, and technology companies to establish responsible usage guidelines and foster a supportive digital environment for children.

Minister for Education Norma Foley TD hosts social media summit to discuss online safety for children and young people 1
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • Print
  • linkedin
  • Buffer
  • Gmail

and she continued:

Technology companies wield significant power in shaping and influencing digital safety for children in today’s interconnected world.

With the increasing prevalence of digital devices and online platforms, these companies play a crucial role in determining the safety parameters that govern children’s online experiences.

black and white rectangular frame
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • Print
  • linkedin
  • Buffer
  • Gmail

From developing age-appropriate content and implementing robust privacy measures to crafting effective parental controls, technology companies hold the key to fostering a secure online environment for young users.

However, this power comes with great responsibility, as these companies must navigate the delicate balance between innovation and protection.

brown wooden blocks on white surface
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • Print
  • linkedin
  • Buffer
  • Gmail

Striking the right chord involves continuous collaboration with experts, policymakers, and parents to ensure that technological advancements align with the best interests of children, empowering them to explore the digital landscape safely and responsibly.

Ultimately, the power of technology companies in the realm of digital safety for children underscores the need for a collective commitment to prioritise the well-being of the youngest members of our digital society.

Translate »