Irish children exposed to dark side of Web

More than three-quarters of Irish parents are unable to control and monitor their children's Internet use

Less than a quarter of Irish parents are more Internet-savvy than their children, according to a new study, which found that parents have difficulty controlling what their children view online.

A report commissioned by the Internet Advisory Board of Ireland reveals that only 23 percent of parents with children aged 10 to 14 know more about the Internet than their children. The study found that the parents who knew the most about the Internet were also the ones who showed more interest in monitoring the online activities of their child.

Eighty percent of Irish parents agreed with the statement: "many parents are unable to control and monitor the Internet use of their children as they do not know enough about it". Only 4 percent of parents questioned strongly disagreed with the statement, indicating that adults in Ireland have been slow to respond to the publicised threat of paedophiles using the Internet to approach children.

An estimated 30 percent of Ireland's 10 to 14 year olds are regular users of the Internet. The dangers of children using the Internet unsupervised has gained increasing media coverage in recent months, with the UK government committing itself to a new piece of legislation that will criminalise the online "grooming" of children. The new criminal offence would relate to a meeting with a child with the intention of engaging in a sexual activity, while an additional civil order would protect children from an adult making contact with them for a harmful purpose, especially by email or through the Internet.

The study conducted by Amarach Consulting finds that despite the Internet knowledge gap, 78 percent of parents do have rules for their children when they access the Internet at home. Of those who do impose rules, just over four-fifths restrict the Web sites visited by their children to those only authorised by a parent or another adult. About half make sure that an adult is present when their child is online.

But these results are called into question by discrepancies in the childrens' responses to the same questions. Only 56 percent of Irish children questioned were aware that their parents authorise the sites that they visit, while just over half said that they can use the Internet unsupervised. Forty percent of children who use the Internet at home usually access it when alone.

See the Net Crime News Section for the latest on hacking, fraud, online child safety, viruses and legal issues.

Have your say instantly, and see what others have said. Click on the TalkBack button and go to the Security forum.

Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read other letters.