Louth Village principal calls for internet age restriction to protect youngsters

"I think as a society we need to re-evaluate our obsession with the internet"

Barry Landy

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Barry Landy

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barry.landy@dundalkdemocrat.ie

Louth Village principal calls for internet age restriction to protect youngsters

Kids are spending more time in front of devices than ever.

The principal of St Mochtas National School in Louth Village has spoken out internet usage among children in Ireland, saying he would favour an age-restriction put in place. 

Patrick Martin, who assumed the principal's position at St Mochtas in 2014, was speaking on Newstalk's Lunchtime Live programme on Wednesday during a discussion about children on the internet, and more specifically, smartphones and social media. 

"I’m very much in favour of introducing an age restriction on internet usage in this country. I think parents also should be in favour of a move," Martin told host Dr. Ciara Kelly. 

"It’s not just phones – tablets, Playstations, Xbox’s, they’re all capable of getting on social media from those mediums.

"Parents are under huge pressure in this country from tech advocates and they need support. It’s a societal issue and requires education, parental control and policy to try and prevent online threats and dangers to our kids."

"I think also as a society we need to re-evaluate our obsession with the internet and our reliance on technology. I don’t think it’s making our personal and home lives any happier.

"What I’ve seen in schools – and I’ve spoken to other principals about this – is the rise of anxiety in our age group. It’s frightening. It wasn’t an issue ten years ago but it certainly is now.

"I think social media and smart phone usage in particular is having an effect on that. I think we need to reframe the conversation to that also. Secondly, if I may, education is vital in preparing our children to use the internet responsibly," he added.

"When asked about whether parents will ever reach a stage where they can outwit their own children when it comes to technology and putting in place protections for their safety, Martin admitted parents may never reach that moment. 

"I’m not sure that we will," he said. "Education needs to be in schools. It is in schools - there needs to be more."

"Online predators for example, they appear to incorporate huge levels of manipulation and cunning. And kids, particularly, vulnerable kids, they cannot always be expected – with all the will in the world – to be able to navigate past the insidious and calculating behaviour.

"We really are dealing with bad, bad behaviour by adults online. Parental control is crucial, education is crucial but policy is also crucial."

Last week, a group of teachers from St Louis Secondary School travelled to Google's European headquarters in Dublin to take part in a digital safety seminar for children and teens in Ireland. 

As part of Safter Internet Day, Dundalk Grammar School, St Nicholas School and St Malachy's Girls School also delivered talks on promoting a safer internet for young people.

You can read more about it by checking out our Dundalk Democrat feature here.