I welcome the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affair’s Report on Cyber Security for Children and Young Adults. Keeping children and young people safe online is a challenging issue that requires a whole of government approach and this is reflected in the Committee’s report.
The Department of the Taoiseach is currently developing an Action Plan on online safety involving all relevant Departments, including my Department, and the Joint Committee’s report and recommendations are feeding into this process. While my Department does not have a lead responsibility in this area, it does play an important role in a wider range of actions across a number of Departments.
My department has the lead responsibility on child protection. The Children First Act 2015 places a number of statutory obligations on organisations providing relevant services to children. These obligations include a requirement to keep children safe from harm while they are availing of the service; a requirement to carry out a risk assessment, and, a requirement to prepare a child safeguarding statement which sets out the policies and procedures which are in place to mitigate these risks.
In this regard, my Department plans to amend the Children First Guidance to include a specific reference to the need to consider online safety in the completion of a Child Safeguarding Statement.
I am also concerned that the voices of children and young people will be heard and acted upon when we make decisions on internet safety. My Department undertakes and supports consultation and participation processes. This includes developing structures to enable participation in decision making by children and young people. Such structures include both Dáil na nÓg and Comhairle na nÓg. I welcome the Joint Committee's engagement with Comhairle na nÓgs in developing it's report. It is only through this type of engagement with young people that we can find the solutions that will work.