Recent proposals to ban under 14s from buying internet enabled phones is well intentioned but there is another way.
Fine Gael TD, Jim Daly, has proposed making it an offence for retailers and even parents, to supply under 14s with phones that have unrestricted internet access.
Everyone wants to keep kids safe online and while the proposed bill is well-intentioned, it doesn't really address the nature of young people's interactions with each other in a digital world.
Never mind the arguments about how you'd enforce the bill and exactly how you'd penalise parents, it just seems to overlook a few aspects of how we deal with the reality of online bullying or explicit or violent content. You see, keeping kids safe online isn't just the job of one or two groups. It's everyone's.
You only need to look at tweets during the Late Toy Show to see grown adults making abusive comments about the children on screen. Grown ups who are supposed to know better, regularly engage in slagging, shaming and bullying children online, be it in the comments sections of websites or on social media.
The real debate we should be having is how, we as a society, treat the health and wellbeing of the children of the nation. If we are to take the issue of online safety seriously, we'll need to be much more active in educating and training parents, teachers and kids alike.
Schools have been increasing anti-bullying workshops and these often come with a focus on online abuse and trolling. This is a great step along the way, but teachers will tell you that they often feel like they are a working in a vacuum.
Some people may think that rules around who can view what online and at what age, hint a little of the oft quoted "nanny state". Whether this is true or not, no-one can blame an elected member of parliament wanting to do something about online safety for children.
One problem, however, arises when we put an age restrictions of 14 on unlimited online access on phones. In effect a 14 yr old can be sitting in class with their 15 yr old peers, who would have full ability, under the law, to access any content on their phone.
On the one hand we're embracing technology in education, from Coder Dojo to online research and on the other, we're telling young people we want to curb their ability to use this technology. We have to find that happy medium.
Yes, we do need to keep children safe from harm. We also as adults, need to take responsibility for the children we have in our lives, be it as parents, guardians, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
We need to think of more ways to keep young people safe online. Parents often feel that they can't keep up with what the parameters online are, or should be.
If we are giving phones to our kids, we need to try to make sure that we know what we are doing with them. We are the ones who need to educate ourselves about the risks and keep as up to date as we can about online trends and what our children are doing when they have that device in their hand.
Parents want the best for their kids. We shouldn't punish them if they aren't wholly aware of the world their younger teenagers and pre-teens inhabit. We should spend more energy educating them.
National campaigns about safety online should target those who look after children, not just the children themselves. Everyone agrees we need to keep children safe online. How we go about doing this is going to be where we need to really spend our time.
Even if you aren't a tech savvy parent, there are a few things you can to to help keep kids safer when they are accessing the internet. This starts from the very first time your child gets a phone. Do a little research about how kids are using the phones. Ask other parents.
Attend the online safety talks in schools. Importantly, talk to your child about the rules you are going to set for them; rules about who they talk to online, how they treat others, what the parameters are.
You can also keep them safe by using technology itself, to block inappropriate content, websites that are violent or explicit. With some simple tech tools you can monitor online use, set time limits for internet use or track your child's phone. Let them know that all of these things are pre-conditions for getting a smartphone in the first place.
iKydz is the easy to use solution for keeping a track on devices within the home. You can block inappropriate content, set time limits for device use and manage access online for kids. iKydz is simple to instal and very easy to use - a simple plug in box giving you peace of mind at home.
F-Secure Safe is easy to use software for all your devices; laptops, phones, tablets. You can protect the family against malware, scams and viruses. F-Secure Safe will protect your devices outside the home. You can also track your child's phone and lock it if it lost or stolen.
It also lets you block inappropriate content, so even if you aren't sure of what exact sites to block, the software does it for you. You don't need to know everything about how to keep your kids safe online, but you have a tool that helps do that work for you.
You can buy iKydz Wireless Access Control and F-Secure Safe from BeSecureOnline. Just go to our products page for all the info, including videos on how to keep your kids safe when they use the internet.
Get the latest updates in your email box automatically.