I welcome the recently published report by the joint Oireachtas Committee on children and youth affairs regarding Cyber security and Young Adults. The recommendations from this report are under consideration, and will underpin and inform the development of the draft actions in the new Action Plan on Internet safety. My Department is working with the Department of Taoiseach and a number of other Departments in the development of the Plan. The plan will be a whole of government initiative.
My Department promotes internet safety in a number of ways including the prescription of school curriculum, provision of teacher professional development programmes, development of specialist resources for teachers and schools and provision of advice and information.
The PDST (Technology in Education) is a dedicated team established and funded by the Department to advise and support schools in the area of digital technologies, including issues of internet safety. The PDST-TiE also oversee Webwise.ie. which is a major part of the Safer Internet Ireland Project coordinated by the Office for Internet Safety. Webwise.ie has responsibility for national initiatives aimed at the promotion of the safer use of electronic media and the protection of the vulnerable, particularly children, against the downsides of the internet.
The PDST also provide information, advice, and tools to parents to support their engagement in their children’s online lives and with the help of the Webwise Youth Advisory Panel they develop youth oriented awareness raising resources and campaigns that address topics such as social networking, sexting, cyber bullying.
Under the Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020 one of the key objectives is to promote responsible and ethical use of the internet and related technologies and to continue to undertake awareness-raising actions and programmes that promote responsible and ethical use of the internet.
My Department will shortly publish a circular which will request schools to consult parents and students on the following:
- The appropriate use, if any, of tablet devices and smart phones in school
- If smart phones and tablet devices are to be allowed, in what circumstances e.g. recording videos, taking photos etc. and subject to what restrictions are they to be used
- The nature and scope of restrictions that might be applied by the school e.g. age grounds
- If smart phones should be allowed outside of class time i.e. during breaks, on school grounds after school
- Measures to ensure a shared approach on the appropriate use of digital technologies in the home and during students free time and possible awareness raising initiatives.