Young kids at risk of being groomed by predators online, expert warns

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Kids are being exposed to porn and violence online and risk being groomed by predators during their summer holidays, a safety expert has warned.

Parents are being urged to keep an extra close eye on their children as they clock up more screen time in July and August.

CyberSafeKids chief Alex Cooney said young children end up accessing even more shocking material while off school and has pointed out some of the pitfalls facing youngsters.

She told the Irish Sunday Mirror: “A very common one is exposure to explicit content.

“Anything is available at the click of a button so parents need to be very mindful and have conversations about it.

“You are talking about porn, horror stuff, extreme violence, drugs, everything is there.” Ms Cooney said grooming and extortion is also a problem children face online.

She said the best advice for parents to give to their children is to not talk to strangers and only engage with those well-known to them in the real world.

She added: “All of the official data is leading to quite a significant increase over the last year.

“I think it comes down to talking to strangers and making sure children are only friends with people online who they know well in real life.”

She warned parents need to be aware of cyber-bullying and the possibility of their youngster being exposed to it.

Ms Cooney added: “Problems with bullying would include being left out of chats, exclusion, while others would be comments being made online.”

She said children need to be aware of the dangers of sharing personal information online.

She continued: “We would be warning of kids sharing too much information. It could be their name, age, where they go to school, live.

“Unthinkingly they could contributing to that digital footprint and how that might affect them in later life.”

Another problem facing youngsters while online is spending far too much time at their screens.

Ms Cooney added: “They become over dependent on it and feel good after being on it.”

She concluded: “It’s important to point out that there are many benefits to being online too, especially during lockdown.

“It has helped people to safely socialise, to play games, do exercise or whatever it is. There is also a very educational side to it all too. It’s important to recognise that even when we are saying ‘beware of these risks’.”