You’ve probably heard and read about recent debates around the digital age of consent and whether the age should be raised from thirteen to sixteen. The proposal to raise the age was defeated, and the digital age of consent remains at 13 in Ireland. But, what does this mean?
The digital age of consent is the age below which a person cannot by law make an agreement with an online service provider. These agreements allow social media companies such as Facebook or Instagram to access users’ personal information for the purposes of marketing or advertising.
Many Children’s Right Groups argued for the age to remain at 13. This is because there is a concern that raising the digital age would actually make children less safe on-line. There is a concern that children may lie about their age, and then be reluctant to seek help if they do run in to trouble. Retaining the age at 13 also means that companies that wish to interact with them will need to have child protection procedures in place.
The best way of keeping children safe on-line, however, is for parents and other trusted adults to teach children about on-line safety and to explore together both the benefits and the dangers to be found on-line. Below are some tips on helping your child stay safe:
- Talk to your child about their on-line activity, including what they like doing on-line, the apps and games they enjoy and what bloggers and vloggers they follow. Talk to them about what appeals to them and raise any concerns that you have about the content. This can be a great way of sharing your values with your child and helping them to think about what they are watching.
- Explore Together Let your child see what you are doing on-line and explore some sites together. This might be planning an upcoming trip, finding information for a homework assignment or even watching silly animal clips, but try to find common ground on-line. As you explore, you might help them recognise safe and unsafe sites and talk to them about potential risks
- Talk About Privacy. Make sure that your child understands the need to maintain privacy and the dangers of sharing private information on-line. Set privacy settings together and talk about what is and isn’t appropriate to share on-line and the possible consequences of sharing very personal information about themselves or others.
- Agree a clear set of rules with your child on screen time in the home. Talk to your children on when you think it is appropriate and inappropriate to use screens. Agree times when screens are allowed and not allowed in the home.
- Let them know they can always talk to you. Children and Young People may come across content on-line that they (and you) find shocking, disturbing or upsetting. If this happens, try to remain calm so that your child feels comfortable talking to you about what they saw and how it made them feel.
For more information, see www.webwise.ie