Home Internet The best strategy to protect kids from online grooming is to talk honestly, here’s how to keep tech-savvy children safe

The best strategy to protect kids from online grooming is to talk honestly, here’s how to keep tech-savvy children safe

SAFER Internet Day will take place on Tuesday. The EU-wide initiative promotes a safer internet for all users, especially young people.

Ahead of that, the charity ISPCC has developed a digital ad campaign alerting parents to the dangers of online grooming.


Safer Internet Day will take place on TuesdayCredit: Alamy
John Church, the CEO of ISPCC


John Church, the CEO of ISPCC
Screenshots from ad campaign by Irish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children ISPCC


Screenshots from ad campaign by Irish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children ISPCCCredit: Not known, clear with picture desk

The promo – which asks guardians if they know who their child is talking to when they are online – was developed and produced by Cork-based AV3 Media.

Viewers initially see a young girl seemingly texting her peers.

Messages fly across the screen as the questions grow increasingly intrusive and age-inappropriate.

But then we see the “girl” transform into a sinister-looking older man. It closes with a screenshot directing viewers to ispcc.ie where they can get online safety tips and advice.

Writing in The Irish Sun on Sunday, John Church, CEO of ISPCC, says the shifting online landscape can be a frightening thing for even the most clued-up parents in the tech world, with grooming and bullying taking place constantly.

Do you know who your child is talking to online?

It is a question we at ISPCC have asked in our new ad, ahead of Safer Internet Day on February 6.

Children live in a time of ever-changing mass media — and that can be a scary prospect for even the most tech-savvy among us.

Sometimes it can feel as if there is no escape from the pressure for young people to be “on” and no escape from the pressure on parents to know what is going on.

Most read in The Irish Sun

But there is support available for everyone. Tech is everywhere and it isn’t something that should be feared.

At ISPCC, we believe in encouraging children to engage with new technologies. But we are also cognizant of the importance of preparing them for online dangers.

Our Childline Listening Service is available 24/7, every day of the year, if a young person needs to talk.

We know only too well that grooming and bullying take place constantly online.

Last year, Childline received four conversations every day relating to bullying.

Young people tell us about their concerns through our listening service, one-to-one therapeutic services and our Shield Anti-Bullying programme.

Alerting parents to dangers

We are also proud to be a member of the GroSafe research team led by Technological University Dublin and funded under Science Foundation Ireland’s National Challenge Fund, OurTech.

GroSafe aims to develop a technology-enabled solution designed to build societal resilience against child grooming.

No parent wants to think that their child may be in danger at home.

Our new campaign is designed for alerting parents to the dangers of online grooming.

The brevity of the cyber-safety ad, which reveals the sinister man behind the guise of a young girl — expresses the intensity of these interactions and how quickly they can move from something seemingly normal to a far more dangerous scenario.

Best strategy for parents

The best online safety strategy is to talk to your child about what they are doing and who they are doing it with.

At ISPCC, we try to support parents over the importance of having honest conversations with their children about their feelings, emotions and the different scenarios they might face.

A child should always know that they can go to their parent or carer whatever the issue, without fearing their device or online access will be removed.

The no-blame approach is very important.

Open lines of communication mean that all these skills that a kid learns will be transferable, regardless of the digital platform they are using.

We are hoping that our new digital ad will spark conversations among people, including parents and their children.

Through our Digital Ready Hub, we can help equip guardians with the tools to teach their kids how to stay safe when they’re online.

For the upcoming Safer Internet Day on Tuesday — a global annual event celebrated in more than 180 countries — the theme this year is Tech In Our World.

School events across country

Safer Internet Day in Ireland is co-ordinated by the Irish Safer Internet Centre, the aim of which is to make the Internet a better place for children and young people.

We at ISPCC are delighted to be involved in this partnership along with safety initiative Webwise, the National Parents Council and Hotline.ie, coordinated by the Department of Justice.

Events taking place in schools and organisations for Safer Internet Day across the country will explore the role of digital technology in young people’s lives, their views on new and emerging technologies and the changes they would like to see online.

We know that young people are not just concerned about what is happening now. They are future-focused, wondering what role, for example, AI will have in their digital lives and future careers.

We are really looking forward to seeing what students will be doing on Tuesday.

Read more on the Irish Sun

  • To watch ISPCC’s digital ad, see ISPCC Childline Safer Internet Day 2024 on youtube.com. ISPCC’s Digital Ready Hub provides a range of child-centred supports for parents.
  • Visit ispcc.ie/ispcc-digital-ready-hub



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