11 Aug 2022

Waterford councillor says Ana Kriegel trial shows need for age restrictions on smartphones

Waterford councillor says Ana Kriegel trial shows need for age restrictions on smartphones

Waterford councillor says Ana Kriegel trial shows need for age restrictions on smartphones

Waterford councillor Matt Shanahan has called for more restrictions on the sale and usage of smartphones in the wake of the Ana Kriegel verdict.

"The output from the Kriegel case now surely makes an overwhelming case for age restrictive sanctions to be applied to smartphone sale and internet access and usage by adolescents and children," the recent election poll-topper said.

"As a parent of teenagers and pre-teens and being involved in kids' sports activities I am more than aware of the changes that occur on introducing smartphone technology to children," he added.

"Think habitual usage, disinterest to other hobbies, arguments to outside activity, screen time, data costs, messaging groups, cyberbullying, etc."

"For some this extends further to mood swings, temper tantrums, deceit and even depression where self-image or self-worth doesn’t measure up to whatever is idealised or aspired to online," Shanahan said.

"In Ireland, organisations dealing with children are required to implement ‘child safe-guarding’ rules and policies to protect children - how is it that we parents who insist on these policy standards at all times abandon such protections when we allow our kids purchase a smartphone or other internet-accessible device? This applies even where we have some informal management of activity such as screen time hours or site visit information."

"The internet is an amazing resource but it is also full of things you ‘never needed to know’ and in some cases ‘things you wished you have never seen’! I have seen footage of accidental death online, coverage of massacres and many other things I was not looking for but were sent to me in links that did not list the subject matter," he continued.

"This is aside from the all-pervasive porn industry where your kids can open links and graphic imagery simply by incorrectly typing web searches for their favourite story character names."

"Subsequent to activity highlighted in the Kriegel case, I believe we need an ‘Ana's Law’ to govern adolescent and minors' access to smartphone technology and other internet access devices in Ireland," Cllr Shanahan stated.

"This case appears to have highlighted the accessing, storing and dissemination of digital information that has proved a strong psychological motivating factor behind planned murder."

"That those involved are barely into their teenage years is perplexing - the fact that in one case information pertaining to follow-on action was researched and accessed two years previously should send alarm bells ringing for many of us parents."

"Adult themes and technologies are adding to life’s complexity today and we need to control what is influencing or risking child behaviour and health just like we do with tobacco, alcohol and drugs. We need a committed response from Government to take control of online broadcasting to children as well as limiting or initiating age restrictions to purchasing of certain devices not specified as ‘child approved’ where content and access data can be controlled by license."

"We have waited long enough for industry to address this problem which they have shown no desire whatsoever to do. ‘As the tree is bent, so it grows’ is a long-held maxim in understanding child and adolescent behaviours – given that we adults are responsible for the overall health and mental growth of our most prized possessions (our children) we must do all possible to ensure they grow straight and true."

"We must also ensure they have established a strong root base before exposing them to the ‘wind blasts’ of both the real and the virtual worlds and the many agendas therein," he concluded.

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