Schools and parents must commit to limiting use of smartphones in classrooms to protect and safeguard children, a Fine Gael Senator has said.
Senator Mary Seery Kearney, Seanad Spokesperson on Children, Disability, Equality, Integration and Privacy Rights said: “Government recently provided resources for parents and parent associations to develop voluntary codes regarding smartphone use among primary school children. It is imperative that parents embrace this initiative, recognising the importance of setting boundaries and creating a healthy digital environment for their children.
“In the recent US Senate hearing where CEOs of major social media companies, including Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg, offered apologies to families for the dangers their platforms have posed to children, the need for protective online measures has become increasingly evident.
“While efforts to hold providers accountable are ongoing, it is critical that in the interim educators and parents actively engage with and enforce these protective guidelines to ensure the safety of children under 13 in the digital realm.
“A recent survey by CyberSafeKids revealed that an alarming 95pc of 8 – 12-year-olds own a smart device, and 87pc have their own social media or instant messaging account, despite the minimum age restrictions of 13 on most platforms. This statistic is a clear indicator of the urgent need for action.
“Children are often at the forefront of using and being used by social media services, placing them in potentially harmful situations. It’s not just about the risk of exposure to inappropriate content, but also about the impact on their social development and natural psychological growth. The reality of online risks, such as cyber-bullying, grooming, and exposure to harmful content, is deeply concerning. These issues affect young users profoundly and cause significant worry for their parents.
“I will soon be meeting with the Media Commissioner to discuss advancing child safety, ensuring platforms are proactive and accountable through her office in removing harmful content, and enforcing age usage rules.
“I encourage both parents and schools to actively engage in these initiatives. We need collective decision-making among parents, guardians, and educators to make a positive impact. This collaboration is vital for the well-being and safety of our children in the digital age,” concluded Senator Seery Kearney.