Digital safety should be incorporated into the school curriculum, the Dublin Mid-West Fine Gael TD has said. Deputy Emer Higgins, believes that young people could be better equipped for the world online, and the skills for how to deal with the pressures and risks it brings should be taught in schools. Deputy Higgins said: “Too many of our children and young people are struggling to deal with the pressures of the digital world and I know from speaking to parents in the community that this is a huge concern. We must educate children early about the challenges of social media and give them the tools and skills to deal with those challenges. I strongly believe that digital literacy and internet safety should be incorporated formally into our school curriculum via either CSPE or SPHE.
“This would be important not just for our senior cycle students, but also at junior cycle. Research by ‘Cyber Safe Kids’ earlier this year showed that four in five primary-aged children have profiles on social media and messaging apps that should not be accessible to children under 13. “It seems that parents would support such a move. A survey conducted by Barnardos found that 97% of parents think online safety should be a compulsory part of the school curriculum, with over half of respondents saying that this learning should start as early as Junior Infants. “Many of our schools in Dublin Mid-West do a great job of educating their pupils on these issues already. Resources like the ‘Be Safe Online’ campaign from the Department of Education can be valuable to teachers in this effort, and Safer Internet Day each February is a great opportunity to highlight the issues for young people. “However, the approach from schools is not streamlined across the country and I really feel that this must be done in a more structured way, with digital literacy and internet safety becoming an important part of the core curriculum. I am writing to the Minister for Education on this matter and would hope that we can discuss it at Oireachtas Committee level when the new Dáil term commences,” concluded Deputy Higgins.