Ever younger children are accessing the online world without appropriate guidance, monitoring and support, making them vulnerable to a range of risks, including exposure to harmful and inappropriate content, loss of privacy, cyberbullying, online grooming, extortion, and negative impacts on their health and well-being. It can be difficult, both as a parent and teacher to know how to deal with this.
Alex Cooney and Cliona Curley are co-founders of CyberSafeIreland and both passionately believe in the need to find national solutions to the problem of online safety for children.
Cliona had been working in the area of cybercrime investigation and analysis for 10 years and was involved in Cybersecurity law enforcement initiatives.
In 2015, in her spare time, she volunteered in primary schools to educate children on online safety. She was shocked at how young children were using social media and gaming online and with little guidance from parents and teachers. She felt it was essential that all children benefit from a good education on online safety. She approached Alex, who had a background in programme management in the not-for-profit sector about setting up a charity with a mission to educate and empower children, parents and teachers. A third founder, Maggie Brennan, an online child exploitation specialist, was also involved in the start-up phase of the organisation. As parents of young children, all three could see on a daily basis how technology was going to play an increasingly important part of their futures and how important it was to equip all children with the tools to stay safe and avoid harm. The education programme has been successfully implemented in schools and offices across Leinster and will be rolled out more widely from 2019.