ISPCC Childline and Vodafone Ireland Foundation hosted Ireland’s first multi-site interactive conference for young people, to find out their thoughts and experiences on online safety.

The event, connecting over 100 young people (13-17 years) in Dublin, Dundalk, Galway and Cork in a live-streamed workshop, revealed that young people feel that they should be better protected online and should receive better life skills education, including online safety. Young people also feel that there should be better regulation of social network providers.

Describing current life skills and online safety education as ‘outdated’ the young people agreed unanimously that a Children and Young Person’s National Cyber Safety Strategy is needed and that the government should address this as a matter of urgency.

Some of the key points made by young people at the event included that:

– Life skills should have more emphasis on the curriculum
– Online safety awareness should be a key part of the curriculum
– There should be better regulation of providers of social media and clearer take-down, block and reporting procedures across all platforms

The role of education, in ensuring that young people are aware of the risks and opportunities online and are equipped to deal with something happening to them online was considered essential by the participants.

ISPCC CEO Grainia Long stated: “Cyber safety is the child protection issue of our time and it is so important that we listen to young people and children on how this affects them and how, as a society, we should take on the issue. It is clear that a national children’s cyber safety strategy should be an urgent priority for government.

“We would like to thank the Vodafone Ireland Foundation for their continued support in the area and thank Vodafone for providing the technology and setting to allow this unique event to happen.”

Natalie Hodgess, Vodafone Ireland Foundation said “We are delighted that our technology is facilitating such an important event today. This is the first time we have been able to bring over 100 young people together virtually across four locations and hear their voices and experiences of cyber safety first-hand. We are in the second year of a five-year partnership with ISPCC Childline and are continually impressed by the passion and commitment of the team in raising this important issue at a national level. The calibre of speakers at the event today demonstrates both the reputation ISPCC Childline has and the wider interest in working together to keep children safe online.”