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07th May 2024

‘68% of six-month-old babies are given phones to play with’ – Cybersecurity becoming huge issue

Sophie Collins


A leading child safety expert has said cybersecurity laws for children in Ireland is a “huge problem,” but that there is a simple solution

By setting boundaries and having those all-important conversations with your little ones, CyberSafeKids CEO Alex Cooney says we can solve some of the outstanding issues with cybersecurity.

Speaking on Late Breakfast today, the cyber expert said after ignoring the blaring issue of cybersecurity for children over the last decade, policy makers are now rushing to put the necessary measures in place.

This comes after new research showed that 85% of children in primary school have access to a smartphone or tablet.

While children have had access to these devices for a long time, Ms. Cooney said it has only come to widespread attention for its negative impacts over the past few years.

“The thing that’s changed is we’re talking about it a lot more,” she said.

“When we first started, there wasn’t coverage in the media or policy discussions around this; we didn’t even feel parents were listening that much.

“That has changed in the last two years, there’s been a real substantial change with policymakers discussing this more regularly.

“Parenting is key at home, ensuring you have regular conversations and good boundaries in space.”



Ms Cooney said Covid has “accelerated and exacerbated” society’s dependence on smart devices.

“We now need to acknowledge children are growing up in a digital age, we need to recognise it, see the opportunities, and use devices as a tool”, she said.

“At the moment we’re sending kids into online spaces ill-equipped, we’re not supporting or supervising them.

“If you teach a child to ride a bike, it’s a process and it takes years and eventually, they get to a point where they can go off on their own.

“We need to approach it the same way with the digital world.”

What age is the right age?

While there have been issues around access for a long time, alarming statistics now show that “68% of six-month-old babies are given phones to use and play, sitting in the pram or in the bath – whatever it may be.”

Cooney warned that: “At that age their brain isn’t even wired into their body yet, it’s a huge problem, and ten years ago there was no conversation about this.

“I think parents now are realising the problem because they have recognised their own usage has increased significantly and they are feeling the impacts of it themselves.”

As an expert in the area of cyber security, it’s interesting to note that Ms. Cooney said her children were not given access to devices until they reached secondary school.

“Neither of my children were given a phone until the September after their Junior Cert,” she said.

“I knew that there’s massive impacts to it, even on the physiological development of their brain.

“They didn’t miss out on anything either.

“Would you give children a packet of cigarettes at age ten because everyone else was smoking? Absolutely not.”

We want to know, what age were your children when you gave them access to WiFi enabled devices?