By EMMA CONNOLLY
IT will be illegal for parents to allow their children own a portable device with unrestricted internet access by this time next year, if local TD Jim Daly gets his way.
Deputy Daly is pushing for Ireland to be the first country in Europe to bring in the ban, which would also make it illegal for shops to sell a phone with internet access to anyone under 14.
The Clonakilty deputy says his Bill has the support of Ministers for Children and Communications. He added: ‘Based on the amount of support, encouragement and interest from cabinet ministers, I think the government will take this on and it could be law by next year.’
Under the proposal, any retail outlet caught breaking the law would be fined not more than €100; while parents would also be penalised.
However, Deputy Daly, who is also the chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs, says that phone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung need to come to the table and to manufacture child-friendly phones and tablets for this to work.
‘This is the only way it could be properly policed. It should have happened a long time ago,’ he said.
The father-of-six says the Bill is devised mainly to protect against the online threats of violence, bullying, gambling and pornography ‘which are as much an issue for children in West Cork as they are anywhere.’
Deputy Daly started working on it several months ago after the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was before his committee and identified cyber safety as ‘the single greatest threat to children in our time’, he said.
He understands the pressure parents face when it comes to kids’ demands for a phone which starts from as young as six, but asked: ‘Would you hand your child a porn video and press play?’
He expects some opposition to the Bill but noted that Ireland was the first country to introduce the smoking ban, which was also met with opposition. ‘The vast majority of parents will welcome the assistance on this – they are inadequately equipped to keep up with the online evolving sphere. I can’t educate and I can’t protect – the only tool I have at my disposal is legislation.’