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'Internet and social media an increasing concern for Tipperary parents,' meeting told

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Tipperary CYPSC's Ruairí Ó Caisleáin with Comhairle na nÓg members

Tipperary CYPSC's Ruairí Ó Caisleáin with Comhairle na nÓg members

County Tipperary Children and Young People’s Services Committee (CYPSC) hosted a conference to celebrate Safer Internet Day 2020 – Together for a Better Internet on February 11. 

The conference titled Safety and Wellbeing on Cyber Media took place in the Anner Hotel in Thurles. It was attended by a range of professionals from schools, youth services, An Garda Síochána, Túsla, HSE and family support services along with members of Tipperary Comhairle na nÓg, which is the representative and consultative council for young people in the county.

The conference was undertaken as part of Tipperary CYPSC’s Children and Young People’s Plan to promote healthy online activity by children and young people.

The conference was opened by Marie Kennedy, Tusla area manager for Carlow/Kilkenny/ South Tipperary, who welcomed the three keynote speakers: Zeeko's Jackie O’Regan, Professor Billy O’Connor from the University of Limerick and Detective Garda Sergeant Finbar O’Sullivan from the Waterford Divisional Protective Services Unit.

Professor Billy O’Connor spoke on the effects of social media on the brain. His area of expertise is in brain research and his presentation focused on the functions of the different parts of the brain, their relationship to each other and the complex response of the brain to the stimuli of the external environment as it develops over time.

Prof. O’Conner noted that constructive use of social media, particularly as a tool for learning, has a positive impact on brain development, but that there is a need for external regulation by an adult in the period of childhood and adolescence before the frontal lobes of the brain, governing judgement and self-control, fully develop in early adulthood.

Speaking about the importance of safety and wellbeing on cyber media, Tipperary CYPSC coordinator Ruairí Ó Caisleáin said: “Increasingly, the use of the internet and social media is a concern for parents in Tipperary and indeed across the country. The Tipperary CYPSC aim to create awareness among parents about how best to keep children safe online, and this commitment is outlined in the Tipperary CYPSC Children and Young People’s Plan.”

Detective Garda Sergeant Finbar O’Sullivan spoke about the role of the new Protective Services Units being established around the country with a remit to deal with online child exploitation, sexual crime, and child and domestic abuse. He also provided insight into how the unit approaches the investigation of such cases.

Jackie O’Regan, representing Zeeko - a leading exponent of internet safety for children, parents, teachers and corporate Ireland - spoke about child safety online and the prevalence of risky behaviours. She reiterated the need for parental vigilance.

The Comhairle na nÓg members in attendance brought the conference to a conclusion by highlighting that it has identified social media as an issue for its programme of work this year and will be working closely with Tipperary CYPSC to develop an initiative.