A third of students who play online video games are ‘exposed to harmful content’

The number of children aged eight to 12 with online social accounts has risen to 87 per cent, according to a major survey of 4,500 Irish primary school children.

The study, conducted by CyberSafeKids, also states that more than one in four children have been bullied online, with the same amount seeing content that “disturbed” them.

And almost a third of teenage boys play adult games and are “exposed to potentially harmful content”. According to the report, this includes violent images.

Over a third of children are allowed to go online “whenever they want,” according to the survey, while 95 percent of eight- to 12-year-olds now have their own internet-connected smart device. One in seven say there are “no rules” for their online use at home.

Two-thirds say they have been contacted by a stranger in an online game.

The annual survey, conducted among 4,500 children between last September and June this year, includes a reported incident of “sexually explicit and aggressive language” in a Snapchat group set up by a group of sixth graders from different schools attended the same secondary school.

“Reading my son’s explicit threats of physical harm and rape in the most obnoxious, stomach-churning language was appalling,” the mother of one child involved in the reported incident was quoted as saying.

YouTube remains the most popular app (78), followed by TikTok (47), Snapchat (41), and WhatsApp (40).

“We were able to act immediately because my son told me what was happening, other parents also took action and the school stepped in, which had a zero-tolerance approach to online bullying. I wasn’t vigilant enough to take steps to address this, but the duty of care cannot rest solely with the children and parents.”

The CyberSafeKids survey claims that 28 percent of children have experienced online bullying, with a third of these children not telling anyone about it before being asked in the survey.

Now, over a quarter of children “have seen or experienced something online in the last year that has bothered them.” Almost a third then kept it to themselves rather than reporting it to their parents or someone else.

YouTube remains the most popular app (78 pcs), followed by TikTok (47 pcs), Snapchat (41 pcs) and WhatsApp (40 pcs).

When children post videos of themselves, they are more likely to do so on TikTok (74) or Snapchat (41) than on YouTube (20).

TikTok does not allow children under the age of 13 to post content on its platform. However, age enforcement rules are circumvented by the tens of thousands of Irish teenage children who enroll each year.

TikTok is currently under investigation by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner for its privacy standards.

“This year’s data shows that our young children are exposed to vast amounts of inappropriate content that can be violent, disturbing and sometimes sexual in nature,” said Alex Cooney, CEO of CyberSafeKids.

“Video game makers and owners of the major social media platforms need to do much more to monitor and remove harmful content on their services, especially when it relates to a child, with the huge profits they are making.

“We are contacted by members of the public with stories about children who have had negative online experiences – bullying, grooming, exposure to inappropriate content.

“We urge the government to enact legislation that meaningfully holds online service providers accountable when something goes wrong online for a child.”

The news comes after Instagram was hit with a record €405m fine by the Data Protection Commission (DPC) of Ireland for violating children’s privacy.

The fine was imposed because the accounts, phone numbers and email addresses of some children between the ages of 13 and 17 were made public by default.

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/one-third-of-schoolboys-playing-online-video-games-are-exposed-to-harmful-content-41963753.html A third of students who play online video games are ‘exposed to harmful content’

Fry Electronics Team

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