If 2019 has shown us anything, it is that our concerns for children’s online safety are extremely high. But not managing our children’s online interactions and behaviour is leading to unknown consequences. What we do know is that recent, tragic cases validate our concerns and highlight our inability to manage our children’s usage of the internet. The Ana Kriegel tragedy was one of the most devastating cases of 2019. Dublin man Darragh Meehan groomed and sexually abused an underage girl after meeting her on Facebook and the awful Molly Russell tragedy. YouTuber Austin Jones convinced his underage fans to send him sexual images. An Irish woman was recently prosecuted for possession of child pornography, which she received unwittingly via WhatsApp.
When tragedy strikes, we make noise, complain about it briefly, forget it and move on without enacting any change. We need to be more proactive in our children’s online safety; nobody is going to do it for us.
The Current Problem with Internet Safety in Ireland
No one owns the Internet, and so it cannot be regulated. The infrastructure is shared across providers so regulation is difficult to impose, both commercially and geographically. The Internet is key to the global marketplace and cannot be structurally changed. Like the deepest oceans, much of the Internet is unknown.
Internet providers do little to protect users from malicious and inappropriate content. This is no surprise – it costs them money and it is technically challenging to manage the internet. However, even with top-down controls, viral sharing of malicious or adult content is easy to do from friend-to-friend, peer-to-peer, device-to-device across messaging and social media services. With many of our children having easy, free and open access to their own smartphones and tablets, it is easy to see how they can quickly become over-exposed to highly explicit content. This brings with a potentially seismic social shift, where young people’s views on what is considered normal in both social and sexual relationships is concerning.
Our legislators do not appear to understand the problem. An interesting example of this is the recent failure of the UK’s age verification system, where they had attempted to limit access to adult websites by applying an online age verification solution. It was clear that the UK’s approach had serious flaws from the outset. The intention was good, but the execution was technically unsound, expensive and bound for failure.
No single, clear solution
• Parents are overwhelmed as to how to manage Internet safety and their children’s online access.
• There are partial solutions, but to what problem? Does the solution fix the complete problem or just one component on a single device type?
• Access to the Internet is gained on different devices using different operating systems and different networks – most current parental control solutions cannot solve this problem.
• Children are usually more tech savvy than parents and will push the boundaries of Internet usage and experimentation.
The main problem is that no one is managing the gate to the Internet or how each device opens that gate.
Our Solution to the Internet Safety Situation in Ireland
As a society we need to act quickly, or else this generation and future generations of children will continue to be overexposed to content that is simply not appropriate for young minds. What impact will this have on our society in the future? The solution to the problem is not to blame one or two of the big social networks, which appears to be our legislators and “internet safety experts” go-to position. We cannot expect these social media giants to be our online guardians. Instead, the solution is to manage the traffic from web to device AND also the traffic shared from device to device.
The Solution is simple, quick and currently available:
• Legislators must ensure that Internet Services Providers (ISPs) provide comprehensive Internet access control systems for every customer, giving those customers the ability to apply appropriate controls to specific devices across any network, WiFi or mobile.
• Parents must then be given these tools by their ISPs to easily manage their children’s online behaviour.
• These tools must include the ability to manage time spent on online, categorise and filter content from the web, as well as Device to Device.
• There will be push-back, with ISPs saying that this cannot be done. It can be done. It is being done and Zyalin Group are providing this service in other countries.
• The State must develop a nationwide educational programme in schools to help children manage and negotiate the online world. Call it Civics for the Internet.
What can legislators do?
• Require that ISPs provide a proper Internet control system for their customers, both parents and children. Such a service is available and currently operational with ISPs in the Middle East & Asia. The Zyalin Group service sits outside their network but delivers the security via their network.
• Require that retailers do not sell internet enabled devices to children under 16 without parental consent. We don’t sell alcohol or tobacco to U18s, so why can we not apply some controls over the sale of mobile phones or the Internet to children?
About Zyalin Group
Dublin based Zyalin Group, is a leading Internet control company and the creators of iKydz.
They are the experts in Internet safety, providing parents with WiFi and mobile Internet controls to manage their children’s Internet access. Zyalin’s internet control platform is unique, using Smart DNS, advanced AI, machine learning and the ability to categorise 99.99% of the web. Zyalin’s platform powers a safe internet and allows parents to manage their children’s internet access. Zyalin’s technology has already been adopted by telecom network operators in the Middle-East & Asia who are leading the way in protecting their children online.