Image of vivid painting by Dublin Artist, Neil Douglas, at Courtesy of the Artist.



The following are some for the topics covered ~



















I have re-examined the above topics which I believe are central to our caring for our children and young people with information and therefore with confidence.   I have added a new section which consists of the conversation led by Richie Sadlier and Elaine Byrnes held with teenage boys on the subject of sexual consent, and how the teenagers understand if it's been given or not. 



I have added a new section HOW TO PREPARE CHILDREN FOR A WORLD OF FAKE NEWS at the end of the Post, which gives a very easy introduction to how stories are told and how and why we should believe, or not, what we are told


I shall be expanding as I come across new information and examples.



Any and all comments, ideas, and suggestions are very welcome.



I have come across a very accessible, non-preachy, site to help families get a better balance in their lives ~ exercise, diet, recipes, screen time usage, and other suggestions ~ ~ useful for all ages.



I am grateful to Rae Pica for introducing me to the very important work of Cindy Eckard, which can be found at the following ~ @screensandkids  Her work on the effects of overuse of blue-light emitting devices on eyes, and eyesight, from early years is crucial information for us all.







Iseult Catherine O'Brien

Montessori Teacher & Supervisor  |  Volunteer Tutor with Second Level Students  |  

A Member of The Tutors' Association








I have been banging on for years about the dangers of over-use, and prolonged late night use, of blue-light emitting devices, and the damage caused to young people's health, academic achievements, long-term cognitive and memory problems, plus the difficulties that follow from not being able to live up to their own and their families' expectations.



This concern has been compounded by the growing evidence I've seen around me, have discussed at length with a therapists and software technicians, and heard from people I know who work with young people, that online gambling has got to an extremely dangerous level with young people - with children also involved.


One has to wonder how children can afford such a habit?












Sometimes a court case comes along and a whole nation may be held transfixed in horror at the terrifying experiences of the children involved, and the realisation amongst many parents, guardians, carers, and teachers, that they really do not know what's going on in the lives of their children, and that many do not understand the reach of a Smartphone or Tablet, and other such devices.


Dublin man’s computer had recorded

Skype calls between him and

two nine-year-old girls




A Dublin man who possessed thousands of child pornography images and coerced young girls to send him sexually graphic pictures and videos of themselves has been jailed for seven and a half years.


Matthew Horan (26) used  SkypeSnapchatInstagram  and Kik, an anonymous instant messaging application, to send and receive child porn images from six identified child users in Ireland and nine unknown users around the world.


A forensic examination of Horan’s computer uncovered recorded Skype calls between him and two nine-year-old-girls, both individually and together.  The recordings included footage of these girls engaging in graphic sexual acts.


Horan also took part in sexually explicit text conversations with the girls, during which there was an exchange of photos.


Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard Horan would use Kik to share child porn images and videos with unidentified users around the world, most of whom claimed to be young teenagers.



Threat to Share Images

He threatened to share an 11-year-old girl’s nude images to her social media accounts if she didn’t send him further graphic photos.


In the text exchange between them, this girl repeatedly told Horan she would kill herself.  He continued to coerce her to send more images, the court heard.


Horan pleaded guilty to a count each of sexually exploiting two girls within the State on dates between April 1st and November 23rd, 2014.


He pleaded guilty to two more counts of sexually exploiting a child and one count of distributing child pornography on dates in 2015.   He further pleaded guilty to possessing child porn at his address on July 11th, 2015. 


He pleaded guilty to three further counts of sexually exploiting female children through  Snapchat and   Instagram in the State on dates between May 21st, 2015 and July 7th, 2016.


He also pleaded guilty to possessing child porn on a Sony mobile phone at his home on July 7th, 2016.   He has no previous convictions.


 Judge Nolan ... said ... "the crimes were all committed for Horan’s indulgence and pleasure and Horan had exploited children in a most horrible way"  


He said Horan’s actions would have long-term effects on the victims.

He knew what he was doing was wrong.  He understood the damage and yet he didn’t stop what he was doing, he said.




[All text in italics is copied from The Irish Times online Articles.  Colouring of text and headings was added by me, ICOB.]











The above are edited elements of the coverage of the trial which I hope would be of general use to children, young people, and the adults in their lives, as an introduction to the topic of staying safe online, on Tablets, Smartphones and other devices. 



I suggest that all parents, guardians, and carers (PGCs), and any adults who play a large part in children's, youngsters' and young adults' lives read ALL the various articles listed in this Post.  If a child or young teenager has heard of the case, and wants to know more, reading through the articles together would be useful for both the adult and the child or young person. 



I suggest the adult should read through first, checking the meanings of any technical terms, or any everyday terms that had never seemed so scary previously.   



The adult would feel more confident about being able to answer possible questions.   Once armed with information, I believe the PGCs, or significant adults, should start a conversation at a quiet, relaxed time, about the court case, asking if the youngster has heard anything about it.   



It may have been huge in Ireland, but people overseas will be unaware of this court case, and the public's memory fades.   



While bearing in mind that this case focused on young girls, and that boys are equally at risk, I suggest putting these horrible experiences to a positive use, as the basis for study by families, classes, and all students, to check that everyone knows what to look out for, and what to do if there is a fear that personal information has passed to another.



The situation of the young girls would bring both empathy and determination out in children, youngsters, and young people.  No-one would want to go through their experiences, and they are easy to imagine. 



I believe  having prepared a child by saying what you are about to read with him or her is upsetting, but very important to know about - the adult should just jump in, and trust to his or her relationship with the child, and that any worried questions shall be answered.  



Take your time.   Take opportunities to ask if he or she understands what has happened so far.   It doesn't have to be done all in one evening - it's more important that all the information available and required is mined. 



Be ready to answer questions over weeks and maybe months.   That would be a very positive sign.  This is a very big subject, and realisation will hit the young in sudden moments, and after consideration.  Those are the times when question might be formulating to be asked.  



We need to stay alert, and ask if there are any questions or suggestions the child or young person wants to put. 



It's easy to become complacent, thinking one knows what's going on.  

This story brings out all the nurturing and fear in any adult.



Don't worry If something comes up that you, the adult, hasn't checked - you should just say straight out, that ~

"I don't understand that, but we'll find out the meaning.  We're both learning a good deal of new and really important information because of the bravery of those girls - and pretending we know something when we don't, is not good for either of us.  Information is Power!"



It's a truly shocking case, and sometimes

we need a jolt to get motivated.









To help us be clear what devices we need to consider in relation to our children's and young people's welfare, I list below the devices included in The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, Australian Child Health Poll of 21 June 2017.   The Poll is covered in detail below.



A screen-based device is defined as a television, computer, laptop, gaming console, iPhone, Smartphone, iPad and Tablet



Given details reported during his court case of the devices and apps used by Matthew Horan, I'm adding Skype, Snapchat, Instagram, Kik, and mobile / cell phones to the list, hoping to give as broad a sweep of devices and software as I can. 



Any and all suggestions and information would be very welcome.  



Grainne Long, Chief Executive of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC), said parents must set boundaries and structures for their children’s internet use.  She also said if they (the parents) were uncertain about the technology being used, they should call into stores where staff can advise them.



I believe Ms Long's is an excellent suggestion.  


We could expand it to ringing the supplier(s) of our devices, and arranging to go into the shop(s) with the whole family's devices, with everyone included - all the children, youngsters, young adults, and the PGCs in the house, their help could bring a great deal of clarity.  



The technicians in the shop would know where all the switches for turning off inappropriate films, music videos, and given the current zeitgeist they would be keen to make suggestions.  Most assistants working in these shops are young people, and they are happy to share their information, and to help adults learn how to be in control of the family's devices. 



They could show apps that are age inappropriate or actually adult material.  I know I'd be very relieved to be helped out by someone working in an electronic goods shop, or a shop supplying all kinds of phones.  We are creatures of habit, and are inclined to stick to the same shop(s) if it has / they have worked out well previously.



Further Garda quotes and advice regarding the Horan case can be found near the end of this Post.








[Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children]







Reporter: Mark Hilliard

See for full text of Irish Times Articles. Updated: The Irish Times, Fri, Jan 26, 2018, 15:59



Children’s advocates have stressed the need for parents to monitor their children’s internet use and establish an environment in which young people can seek help if they are approached by predators.


Grainne Long, Chief Executive of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC), said parents must set boundaries and structures for their children’s internet use.


They need to look at the amount of time their children are online, what age they start going online and what they are watching,” she told RTÉ’s 'News at One'.


Encouraging parents to sit down and talk through the issues with their children, she said if they were uncertain about the technology being used, they should call into stores where staff can advise them.



“They key point is this is a solvable problem”, she said.



Áine Lynch, Chief Executive of the National Parents Council primary, said it is difficult for parents to keep up with different apps and online platforms but focusing on these individually is not necessarily the answer.



The threat of adults seeking to abuse vulnerable children has existed since before technology, she said, and  “we need to take the learning from that [and apply it] to the online life of the child as well”.



What will keep children safe is to empower them to do things - one of the things that is always common is that children haven’t been able to tell anyone about it”, she told The Irish Times.




[All text in italics is copied from The Irish Times online Articles.   Any colouring and underlining of text and headings, and enlarging of headlines, were added by me, ICOB.]






Image of vivid painting by Dublin Artist, Neil Douglas, at Courtesy of the Artist.







Also very dangerous, and greatly to the detriment and harm of mostly early teenage boys to young men, and then to the girls and young women they know, is how they may come to view and compare themselves, and other young people, as a consequence of now frequent visits by large numbers of 13-17 year old boys / young men  to pornography sites.  It is thought around 82% of boys from the age of 11 to 12 upwards, are viewing pornography regularly, and use it to learn how to interact with girls.



They usually start watching at around 11-12 years of age.


It's thought around 82 per cent of Irish boys have viewed pornography by this age.



I knew Richie Sadlier was due to start a monthly Column in the Health Section of The Irish Times.   The headline below could not have been more timely, and the article is a must-read for all parents, guardians, and carers, teachers, and anyone who works with young people, or who happens to be in their company regularly.



"Richie Sadlier: Talking with teenage boys about porn, drink and suicide

The psychotherapist and former pro soccer player kicks off a new monthly health column in The Irish Times."   


Go to, to find his Column; he is also available on Facebook and Twitter.   This is exactly what teenage boys, young men need and, of course, girls and young women also.



The low status boys and young men learn, through watching pornography, to think of as appropriate to women and girls - their perceived lack of a girl's / woman's personal integrity  -  and a presumption of their sexual availability - are likely to cause confusion at the very least, in the REAL world, and certainly likely to cause offence and, possibly, result in violent incidents.   



Teenage boys and young men may have a very confused idea of consent.  They think they have to be told "No!" for consent to be denied.   Someone unconscious drunk or on drugs cannot say "No!", and that lack of simplicity can lead to very strange, unhappy, and dangerous misconceptions.



Richie Sadlier was interviewed on the RTÉ 1 television programme, the Ray D'Arcy Show, on Saturday 06 January last: Season 2017, Episode 13. 

Go to to search for the programme from abroad.

Go to, to view it within the Republic of Ireland.



Please don't think your brother, son or nephew, would never do this kind of thing!


  All young people are curious.



This is a very warped way to learn

about personal relationships.







The Article below is quoted from The Irish Times of Sun, Dec 17, 2017, 07:00, Roe McDermott's Column.  



LIFE & STYLE - Health & Family - Parenting



"How do I talk to my teenage sons about pornography?"


"I don’t want to ignore the issue but I’ve no idea how I’m supposed to raise the topic."



"Sun, Dec 17, 2017, 07:00, The Irish Times


Roe McDermott


"Having these conversations with your children isn’t going to just teach them about pornography; they’re going to teach your children how to be mindful, critically engaged, empathetic, and self-aware."



Dear Roe,

"I’m the mother of two boys, ages 13 and 15.  I’m constantly reading and hearing about how young men are exposed to pornography at a young age, and how it causes issues regarding how they view sex and women.  I don’t want to ignore the issue but I have no idea how I’m supposed to raise the topic with my sons, or what indeed I should say.  Do you have any advice on how to tackle this?"



Reply ~

"You’re right to want to address pornography with your sons.  Too many parents are aware of the potentially damaging messages that young people can receive from pornography, but refuse to open up a dialogue with their children about it.  It’s vital to teach your children that sex and sexuality aren’t shameful andlike anything elsethey are allowed ask questions about it, in order to learn.


"Of course, sometimes you won’t have all the answers, but it’s then that you can turn to trusted educational resources – together.  Being part of your children’s education process around sex means that not only are you aware of what they’re learning, you’re also showing them that in your home, education and information are empowering forces.



"By remaining silent and refusing to acknowledge the existence of pornography, you’d be teaching them not to talk about sex, not to ask questions, not to communicate about it.  


"You’d be teaching them that your embarrassment is more important than their education and empowerment.  You’d be teaching them that sex is uncomfortable, and that discomfort trumps everything else, including their wellbeing."




Roe McDermott is a writer and Fulbright scholar with an MA in sexuality studies from San Francisco State University.  

She is currently undertaking a PhD in gendered and sexual citizenship at the Open University and Oxford.




[The colouring and highlighting of text and headings, use of italics and enlarged headings, were added by me, ICOB.]








‘So if you go out and both get drunk you can’t have sex? That’s f**ked up’


Richie Sadlier and Elaine Byrnes discuss consent with transition year boys.


Richie: Does anyone in the class have any idea how they might explain consent to someone?


Joey: Just tell them that no means no.


Elaine: Okay, but remember the absence of a no doesn’t mean the presence of a yes. Silence isn’t consent.


Johnny: But if someone isn’t giving any indication they’re not consenting, how are we meant to know?


Shane: You’d see it on their face.


Johnny: Yeah but let’s say the room is dark?


Shane: You’d know by their body language. They’d be frozen stiff or something. Ah, you’d know.


Paulo: Yeah but they could just be really rigid and shy, or quiet. What’s the difference?


Shane: Ah there’s a difference.


Johnny: Yeah but how are we meant to be sure?




Elaine: Anyone?


Harry: You could ask them straight out if they’re up for it.


Elaine: Yes! And don’t be afraid to be really specific. Communication is everything when it comes to consent.


Gareth: Okay, what are you meant to say? “Am I raping you or not?” [Room laughs]


Richie: Well that might kill the mood a little. Maybe think of other ways to phrase it, but checking to make sure they’re comfortable and enjoying themselves is not a bad thing.


Johnny: Yeah but I heard that if the girl is drunk and even if she says that she’s enjoying it at the time, it’s still rape. Is that true?


Richie: Well the legal definition of rape is penetrating someone without consent. A person incapacitated through drink or drugs would be considered too wasted to give consent. So yes, if she’s drunk, you’re vulnerable in the eyes of the law.


Johnny: That’s f**ked up! So if you go out and you both get drunk you can’t have sex? Isn’t that, like, 90 per cent of how people have sex in Ireland? Get drunk first and then shag?

Neil: Yeah, sure everyone drinks.


Richie: I don’t drink.


Gareth: Yeah, but we’re not trying to have sex with you.

[Room laughs]


Richie: Nobody is saying you can’t have sex. The law says if your partner is heavily intoxicated, though, they can’t give consent. That’s the definition that matters in the courts. And this isn’t just about penetrative sex. We’re talking about all sexual behaviours.


Johnny: Yeah but what’s the difference between normal levels of drunkenness and being too drunk? How can you tell?




Elaine: Anyone? Where exactly is the line?


Joey: Well if she can’t remember anything that happened, she’s obviously too drunk.


Paulo: Yeah but you won’t know that til the next morning. How are you supposed to know there and then?




Richie: Anyone? Where exactly is the line between normal drunk and way too drunk?


Joey: If she’s slurring her words, she’s obviously too drunk.


Thomas: Everyone slurs their words when they’re drunk. You’d never have sex if that’s where the bar is.


Joey: I’d say if she’s falling around, or her balance is all over the shop, then she’s too drunk.


Thomas: That happens to everyone, too.


Luke: Yeah but what if you’re the same amount of drunk – how are you meant to notice?


Richie: Not sure I follow. Say a bit more . . .


Luke: Well you’re saying all men should know when a woman is too drunk to have sex . . .


Richie: Actually, we never said that. We just stated what the law says. We didn’t specify gender either.


Luke: Okay, fair enough, but you’re basically saying men should be the ones to stop everything if the girl is drunk, even if the girl is saying at the time that she wants it.


Elaine: That’s not what we said either.


Luke: Okay but what I’m saying is – if both people are the same amount of drunk – how are blokes expected to be all responsible and stop what they’re both doing? They’re out of their heads too, remember. It’s f**ked up that in those situations the bloke is the one who can be accused of rape. That’s what I’m saying.


Elaine: Anyone got anything to say to that?


Johnny: Luke’s right. The law is bulls**t. Why are men the ones who have to take responsibility for the woman’s drunkenness?


Bobby: That’s not what the law says. Listen to what they’re saying. It just says there’s a point where someone can be too out of it to give consent, so even if they say yes, you should still walk away.


Richie: It doesn’t say walk away. It’s making you aware that being intoxicated can influence a person’s body language and facial expressions, even their words. It’s up to you to know how to behave if you’re ever in that situation. And remember, the law only becomes a consideration if there’s an allegation. I don’t want you to get the impression that any woman that has sex while drunk – even if she can’t remember every detail – will automatically go to the gardaí. I’m just saying you should always take responsibility for your own actions in this area.


Gareth: Yeah but you’re kind of saying we should take responsibility for the girls drinking too, like we have to be the ones to make decisions on their behalf. I’m a feminist, you know. What about equality? [Room laughs]


Richie: I don’t think that’s what I’m saying.


Conor: It basically is, though. Let’s say we’re the same level of drunk, you’re saying the girl’s words – her saying yes – don’t count if she was hammered, but the bloke’s actions – penetrating her – does. Is that not bulls**t?



Conor: Yeah but they’re scumbags. We’re not. We’re just trying to get laid [room laughs]. You’re making out, okay, sorry – the law is making out – that there’s a higher standard of behaviour on us lads. That’s bulls**t.


Elaine: I suppose what we’re saying is how important respect is when it comes to consent. Respect for yourself and respect for others. So, just to keep that in mind – you being drunk or the other person being drunk doesn’t change that.


Leo: If a girl is hammered, though, shouldn’t the conversation be about why she’s hammered? You’re telling us to be responsible when it comes to alcohol and drugs, why shouldn’t women be held responsible too?


Richie: Lads, men can be raped too. This isn’t a man / woman thing. The law is there to protect everyone.


Conor: Okay, but I read about this bloke that was accused of rape and he didn’t do it and the girl just got away with making it up and now his life is ruined.


Richie: I don’t know the details of that one, obviously, but everyone in the world is vulnerable to a false allegation. Men and women, remember. Any time you’re ever in a room alone with someone they can accuse you of anything, so everyone is vulnerable to that. It’s worth being pretty selective who you go into a room alone with if that’s your concern.


Leo: Yeah but why does everyone automatically believe the girl? You look on social media and everyone assumes the girl is right and the bloke’s reputation is ruined. Since #MeToo nobody believes blokes anymore.


Richie: That’s not a reflection of how the courts generally see it. Have you seen the conviction rates compared to the number of reported rapes? Anyone know roughly how many rapes go unreported?


Johnny: But a man’s life is ruined if he’s accused.


Richie: How would you compare that to the experience of being raped and not believed? Or being raped and not even reporting it cos you think you won’t be believed?




Richie: Let me ask you this way – if you came to me this morning and said you had been raped last night, would you want me to believe you? [Room laughs] No, seriously, let’s move away from the notion that women are the only victims of rape here.


Leo: Well obviously, yeah.


Richie: Okay, and let’s say it happened while you were at a party with a load of older blokes and you were drunk. Would you want people to say it was your fault cos you were drunk? Or that you should have known better than go to a house with older lads or some s**t like that?


Leo: Obviously not, no.


Richie: So why did you say we should discuss the woman’s drinking if she was drunk?




Richie: Sorry lads, we’re out of time here. Anyone got anything to say before we finish up?




Elaine: So would it have been enough for us to just say to you all that no means no?


[Lots of heads shake]


Elaine: And if we asked any of you to explain consent to someone now, what would you say?


Gareth: I’d tell them to never drink and stay a virgin cos it’s not worth the f**king hassle. [Room laughs]


Richie and Elaine: See you next week, lads.




 [The colouring and highlighting of text and headings, and enlarged headings, were added by me, ICOB.]







Please See LUKE Culhane's video on YouTube entitled



'Cyber Bullying: Create No Hate' 


which went viral.  Luke's video recounts his own experience of being bullied on-line. 



Every PGC and teacher needs  to make themselves knowledgeable about  this  pernicious type of bullying.  PGCs have to take on the responsibility of learning about cyber-bullying, and  then make sure their offspring also know about it, and know they should tell as soon as anything nasty happens on-line. 









HAVE PGCs made themselves aware of the ubiquitous nature of cyber-bullying, and how extremely damaging it is to any child, young person, or adult? 



Go to for advice for PGCs, teachers, and anyone who should make him or herself knowledgeable on cyber-bullying. 



PGCs cannot leave this job to

teachers and the school. 



Our children's and young people's welfare have to be our priority - please take this issue seriously.  Young people can become isolated, may self-harm and, in some cases, take their lives. 


Some truly cannot live with the constant bullying.





LUKE Culhane (then 13), from Limerick, Ireland, created a video entitled


'Cyber Bullying: Create No Hate' 


which went viral on YouTube.  Luke's video recounts his own experience of being bullied online. 




Luke was named the 2016 "Child of the Year" / 'l'enfant de l'année 2016', by French newspaper 'Mon Quotidien' for standing up to cyber-bulling.


Cyber-bullying can happen to anyone on a seemingly random basis.  Frequently, young people keep it to themselves ~ they do not tell PGCs and, often, not even their best friends.  The results of this COWARDLY bullying can be appalling for everyone in the family, not just the selected victim. 



PGCs REALLY NEED to find out about this pernicious activity; when they have informed themselves, they will have a better idea what to look out for in their young people and children.


A conversation on the whole topic, at the dinner table, with everyone present, would make the subject easier for everyone to ask about and talk about.  Show Luke's YouTube video, even young children will be able to understand its message, and it would be a good starting point for your conversation.





Image of vivid painting by Dublin Artist, Neil Douglas, at Courtesy of the Artist.








The BLUE-VIOLET LIGHT which helps us wake naturally, and which is responsible for the increased mental activity in daylight hours, especially in Spring and Summer, and which is beneficial in concentrating on work and study, can also cause us problems.   When we awake to dark mornings, with few hours of daylight, we must acknowledge the consequences for our brain activity.  We get most of our  Vitamin D from sunlight, and many people are unaware that they should use a supplement during the dark days.





If, on a regular basis, you are staying late at work, college, or school, to work on a computer, or are bringing work home to be done on a personal computer, you are running the risk of upsetting your sleep pattern, causing exhaustion and, possibly, long-term sleep deprivation.



IT IS NECESSARY to make a conscious effort to blink at speed and at frequent intervals while using a computer, as we actually blink less frequently while looking at a screen.


Using an intensive lubricating eye care product, which is both phosphate and preservative-free, is helpful for avoiding dry, itchy eyes. 


'Dry eye' is a frequent, itchy, and very irritating result of prolonged computer use, and which can lead to an eye infection, resulting from excessive rubbing and scratching of the eyeball, especially when tired.



If you bring any kind of computer-based work home, there can be a notion that working surrounded by one's own things, is working in a more relaxed environment and, so, is less stressful.


However, we fool ourselves!


Some evenings, work is spasmodic due to continual interruptions; sometimes, we get distracted by household chores, and start the work much later than intended.



IN HOPEFULNESS, we may plan to work for a specific period of time, at the end of which we shall cease, finished or not.  That is never how it works out!   We work hour after hour, with the comfort in the back of the mind that the bed is close by.  Unfortunately, frequently, we realize suddenly it is 2.00am or 3.00am, or later.  Panic stations! - save the work on the computer, brush the teeth, into bed pronto!



Then, one lies in bed - in the dark and quiet, tossing and turning, growing more frustrated,  the head is racing, and there is no way of relaxing.  This can become distressing if it happens on a regular basis.



AWAY FROM THE GLARE of the screen, at a minimum, it will take at least ONE FULL HOUR for the synapses in the brain to quieten down sufficiently to be able to relax and, eventually, hopefully, to sleep.



Getting into such a habit can lead to chronic exhaustion, making one less efficient, and so perpetuating the unhealthy practise.



This situation, if not dealt with, can lead to a considerable period of time off work, or off school / college, for stress related illnesses, becoming seriously run down, and exhausted due to sleep deprivation.













No matter what time of year it is, if it's a holiday break, or whatever term the children and young people are in school or college, PGCs must be on the look-out at all times. 



Many PGCs are surprized that although their students may have been back in the education cycle for quite some time, they still need 'support' and frequent urgings  getting into a good sleep / awake balance, in order that they can get up on time to work to their optimum, and care for their mental and physical health.



After a Summer spent texting friends, rather than going out to meet up with a group of friends, and never having a real  good, relaxed chat, all together, some young people find being surrounded by classmates, and many other people, surprizingly difficult.



This problem with interaction can carry on through the whole year and include the Summer and Christmas Breaks if they have been keeping up with long-term online gaming, gambling, meeting new people - sometimes on porn sites, which often starts off by mistake, but are frequently revisited. 


All of this blue-light device activity can make actually meeting people face-to-face very difficult.



All of us who have family living very far away are conscious of how much easier communication is nowadays with Skype, the internet and other platforms, compared to what it was like for families, even twenty years ago.  However, grandparents will still say, although it is lovely to hear the children's voices, and see their faces, it is JUST NOT the same as HUMAN CONTACT.  

And they are right.



People lose a great deal of the subtleties of communication, when the micro-gestures, and 'tells' are lost while using electronic devices.  We miss the little wince that may indicate a friend is unhappy or worried.  We cannot take someone's hand and ask what's happening.



People who have got out of the habit of meeting up with friends or visiting family easily and frequently, may find it especially difficult to get back into the situation of being among large groups of people, such as at Christmas or New Year parties, Mid-Term Breaks, Spring Break and Easter Holidays. Summer barbeques.  



This isolation from one's friends, and the world in general, can happen very quickly, and it is not easy to overcome.



Some people find going out the front door a HUGE problem, and will change clothes a few times, rearrange sock drawers, anything to avoid going out the door.   All breaks from school / college / university are very good times for PGCs, and the family in general, to pay attention to the social lives, and possible lack of activities, of youngsters, teenagers, and young people in the family.


Are they going out to call on friends and family? 

Do they accept invitations readily and happily, looking forward to dressing up and going out?



Do they think of any excuse not to go out?   

Do they just see a couple of close friends in the bedroom, and never go visiting?


At what time of day do they first appear, and do they seem especially tired and bleary-eyed? 


PEOPLE ARE VERY SOCIAL ANIMALS.  We are hardwired to gather in groups, and we are tactile. 



This seemingly anti-social behaviour can be put down to teenage mood swings, but it is much more serious than that.



If we have not seen friends for a while, we will have missed out on many of the little strengthenings of connections that are constantly renewed when meeting up or visiting. 



QUITE QUICKLY, we can become nervous of going out, replying only on email, calls, and text, to keep up communications.  These are fine for short term communication ~ but THEY DO NOT fill the gap we need filled by SOCIAL INTERACTION WITH OTHER PEOPLE.



If young people get into the habit of watching downloads or gaming during school holidays for long periods, getting back into the rhythm of rising on time to get to school / college, can be AN EXTREMELY DIFFICULT problem to overcome.   If they didn't get back into a sleeping regime before starting back, it can be done, but it is not easy. 



Young people can get VERY cranky as they are trying to work and manage on too little sleep while their proper balance is being sought.



The brain does not mature until around 25 years, up to 30 years of age.  To develop FULLY, the brain requires good quality, sustained, sleep. 



This is A Simple Fact We

Cannot Deny,

No Matter How We May Wish To.



We need to help our students get up on time NOW, even if  already back in study, as they need to get into a sleep / awake balance, so they may be able to get up on time as soon as possible.  This is not going to be easy for anyone in the family.


In children and young people, that means nine to ten hours sleep a night.


As I have been told by teachers / tutors at all levels, youngsters and young people frequently arrive in school / college / university, take off the coat, sit at the desk AND, promptly fall asleep.



These children and young people are

seriously sleep-deprived.



OFTEN, their families are unaware of nighttime activities.  If a young person waits until everyone goes to bed, and then turns on his or her devices, there would not be anyone to see a possible tell-tale light shining from under the bedroom door.



OFTEN, it only comes to light during breaks from school or college, when they are asleep all day, and awake all night.



GAMING is very popular, especially with boys and young men.  Once a serious game starts, all notion of time is lostthe game is everything.



GAMBLING online has become a VERY DANGEROUS habit for many youngsters, and even children.   



It can become a habit very quickly.   The incorrect date of birth entered, making one seem over 18 or 21 years, depending on the Rules of the online gambling company and local laws, and youngsters are free to gamble.   I have yet to hear of an online gambling company checking back fully to ensure that their new customer is indeed of an age to gamble legally, and is the legal holder of the credit card being used.



Who is legally responsible for the possibly colossal credit card bills of under-age gamblers?  




Young people and down to quite young children, frequently have many electronic devices in their bedrooms.  Young people and teenagers may be watching television, DVDs, YouTube, sports coverage, pornography, downloads, and gaming. 


Inadvertently, anyone can find themselves on a sordid sex site.



Pornography sites are being used much more often by young men, and boys of early to mid teens, on a regular basis - they usually start viewing at 11-12 years of age.



Young children may be viewing cartoons, frequently as a type of electronic 'bedtime story'; what else are they watching? 



DO PGCs KNOW just how many hours daily their children spend on their computers or using smart phones?


ARE THEY AWARE of the possible serious negative health consequences?



This isolation and lack of personal interaction can lead to depression.  This can be difficult to recognise, as knowing what came first is difficult to ascertain.  Everything should be done to get a young person to visit his or her GP.







Safe Kids, Strong Families |




Teen watching TV | Striking the Technology 

 Balance: How Much TV is Too Much?



A recent study by the American Academy of Paediatrics shows that increasing consumption of digital media by children could be having a negative impact on their development.



Please see the rest of this article near the end of this Post.








Dark mornings and evenings can be masked by high levels of light in the home.   PGCs need to look to lowering light and sound levels as the evening comes on, from around 4.30-5.00pm, reducing them to side lamps in main family rooms.



The television may need to be turned off or moved to another room.   A calm, quiet, low-lit, room in which to wind-down after homework and dinner, for catching up on family news, and getting into the best possible frame of mind for a relaxed trip to bed, would of great benefit to all children and young people.  



It's the best way to prepare for bed for anyone of any age.



If children and young people don't start feeling tired, and naturally ready for sleep, their body-clocks are thrown awry.



Darker, quieter, rooms help the natural inclination to sleep.   Sufficient sleep is imperative for children, youngsters, and everyone.


CHILDREN DO THEIR GROWING DURING SLEEP, and their bones continue to develop.  It is understood that 90 per cent of BONE GROWTH TAKES PLACE DURING SLEEP



NINE TO TEN HOURS of good quality,  SUSTAINED, sleep give a child, youngster, teenager, and young person adequate rest.   


This is the necessary amount of sleep for both physical and mental well-being.  The human growth hormone is released during this time, resulting in growth spurts.  



SLEEP IS ESSENTIAL for the body to rest, and adequate rest means better physical growth.



immune system; 

brain development;



and information processing; 

As well as many other systems of the brain and the body. 


THIS APPLIES TO EVERYONE, from a child to an older person.








Breaks from school or college are frequently the times when PGCs realise they are living with a creature who does not come out of the bedroom in daylight hours, except for raids on the 'fridge. 


They realise that this is more than just a teenager needing lots of sleep.


IT IS UNDERSTANDABLE that even when PGCs realize the consequences of their children's late and prolonged use of electronic devices, they have a problem facing up to the glaringly OBVIOUS SOLUTION.



ONCE IT IS DISCOVERED that a young person is over-using electronic devices to the detriment of his / her mental and physical health, relationships and friendships, and his or her wake / sleep balance, something must be done.  



If the transition to sleeping nine to ten hours nightly is not made in the last weeks of holidays, young people may still be finding it difficult to manage study and other activities.



It may take longer than anyone expects to break the habit of being awake a good deal of the night with electronic devices, and sleeping through most of the following day.



PGCs might have to make some very

unwelcome and drastic decisions

which may cause serious friction,

in the short to mid-term. 



PERHAPS, having conversations with the PGCs of your children's close friends, to discuss the problem, to try to present a united front, giving PGCs mutual support would be useful.   PLUS, the youngsters will see it is not just their  parents BEING REALLY MEAN!



START BY EXPLAINING calmly that this is a HEALTH and MENTAL WELFARE matter, you are not trying to ruin the youngster's life, FOREVER!




[START your RESEARCH with the details of and Links for Studies on the deleterious mental and physical health consequences of over-use and late night use of blue-light emitting electronic devices.  Please see the last Sections of this Post for more details of some Studies, which can be the basis of your explanations and descriptions.


It HAS to be better to SHARE information than to seem to be forcing youngsters etc, to listen to a lecture.]





A television in a common room, should not be turned on as younger children come in from early childhood education, or as older siblings arrive home from school or college.   Making sure the television is not on, and turning it off if turned on, is one very important, simple, way to start making sure your offspring are not over-loaded with blue-violet light emissions.



It enables conversations on how the day has gone, when not competing with the noise and distraction of a television.


Mobiles / cell phones should be banned from the table, be they for work or study. 


They should be turned off, or left in another room.



For their welfare's sake, teenagers and younger, SHOULD NOT have a television iPad, smart phone, Kindle, Tablet, or any type of mobile / cell phone on in their bedrooms, after approximately 7.30 - 9.00pm, depending on age.  



There are Rules under the The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), (those under 18 years of age), entitling young people to degrees of autonomy.   Currently, there is a discussion on how much right a parent has to take a mobile / cell phone from a teenager.   The discussion is usually based around the idea that those of 15-16 years are entitled to the use and possession of their mobile / cell phone at any time.  There are arguments in some countries that young people of 13 years are equally entitled.



I know the reaction from youngsters and teenagers may be VERY LOUD, and VERY, VERY, UNHAPPY



NO PARENT WANTS TO BE A BADDIE, and the children / youngsters WILL ARGUE OVER AND OVER, that ALL THEIR FRIENDS are allowed to have all these devices in their bedrooms, night and day.



However, Difficult Choices Require to be Made Now!



Studying on a laptop in the relative quiet of a bedroom, but preferably in a common room in the house, is a good habit, but only in conjunction with reference to actual books, real dictionaries, thesauruses, and the deep reading of novels, sciences, poetry, sci-fi, histories, biographies. 


We must encourage and retain our own intellectual 'omnivorism'.  Adults have to show the way.



All electronic devices shall have to be removed from the bedrooms at 7.00 pm to 9.30 pm, depending on the ages of the children and young people, at the discretion of the PGCs.



Having finished study / work, EVERYONE in the family WILL  HAVE TO turn their computers off at least 90 minutes before bedtime. 



It's good for the younger ones to know the adults are sticking by the same rule.



Apart from saving the work, the younger ones shall then need to BRING ALL DEVICES down to a common room where they can be checked off, TO ENSURE ALL DEVICES ARE ACCOUNTED FOR, while bearing in mind the rights of young people.



GENERALLY SPEAKING, most young people get a limited number of chances for primary and second level schooling.  If they are chronically exhausted due to inappropriate and overuse of electronic devices, THEIR PERFORMANCE IN SCHOOL WILL SUFFER negatively and significantly.


*       Eighty-five per cent of parents of young children (aged less than 6 years) said they used screen-based devices to occupy their kids so they could get things done with one in four doing this every day of the week.


   Teenagers spend the most time on a screen-based device at home, of any age group, at almost 44 hours on average per week – more than the time equivalent of a full time job.  Parents averaged almost 40 hours per week. ++


"Not only was educational performance hindered.  Important social skills were also diminished", says Lynette Vernon, lead researcher of this study at Murdoch University in Perth:


"The outcomes of not coping – lower self-esteem, feeling moody, externalising behaviours and less self-regulation, aggressive and delinquent behaviours – the levels increase as sleep problems increased." * *


See this Study in full below. 





We Have to Take Seriously the Well-Documented Difficulties Students Encounter in these Circumstances



YOUNG PEOPLE DO NOT  reach their optimum potential at second level schooling, and this has consequences for the possibility of winning a place in a college or university, or following whatever dreams they have. 



THERE ARE NEGATIVE SIDE EFFECTS for young people of becoming ISOLATED from a social life, if they spend a great deal of their spare time online gaming, gambling, watching or engaging in pornography, or on X-Box.



VERY IMPORTANT - Children and young people NEED three hours of physical activity daily for fitness sake, and also for psychological well-being. 



Children are less physically active now than ever before.





'Our minds can be hijacked' :

the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia.



Please see this The Guardian report by Paul Lewis in the last Section of this Post.



"There is growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called continuous partial attention, severely limiting people’s ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ."



The industry insiders who often designed the software, are restricting their own use of smartphones, etc. 



See more below ...




Health Problems & Screen Use in Young Children & Older Ones

Image of vivid painting by Dublin Artist, Neil Douglas, at Courtesy of the Artist.



Decline in Teen Mental Health Attributed to Late Night Stimulation **


By Dr Ramesh Manocha


The neurological dangers implicated in overusing our devices are well-established.   From the incessant cognitive itching to allay novelty bias to a consistent uptick in distracted driving accidents and deaths to the circadian chaos of excessive blue light, our memory and attention are not the only skills being affected.   While no long-term studies have traced these issues from childhood through adulthood – yet - one simple fact is inarguable: too much screen time is not healthy.



Now a longitudinal study of over eleven hundred high school students in Australia has revealed another disturbing aspect of technology addictiona decline in mental health.



Poor sleep due to late-night calling and texting is the culprit.  The group of thirteen to sixteen year-olds saw a stark decrease in performance over a four-year period, from 2010-2013.  While previous research has linked the blue light emitted from phones to poor sleep, and sleep is necessary for optimal health and emotional regulation, this Study is considered the first to link all three, even though anecdotally teachers have noticed increasing sluggishness in their students for years.



"Not only was educational performance hindered.  Important social skills were also diminished", says Lynette Vernon, lead researcher of this study at Murdoch University in Perth:

The outcomes of not coping – lower self-esteem, feeling moody, externalising behaviours and less self-regulation, aggressive and delinquent behaviours – the levels increase as sleep problems increased.



It’s not only the light affecting students, Vernon observes.  Cognitive arousal when receiving a text or social media like also keeps the receiver primed for further reaction at a time when their body and mind should be winding downInstead of drifting to sleep their brain remains on alert for the next ding.


- Derek Beres



[The colouring, highlighting and underlining of text were added by me, ICOB.]



A download from 'Generation Next'.

Read More: Decline in Teen Mental Health Attributed to Late Night Stimulation

Dr Ramesh Manocha | July 10, 2017 at 3:33 pm | Tags: late night texting 

Categories: Uncategorized | URL:









The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne,

Australian Child Health Poll of 21 June 2017.




The Director of the Australian Child Health Poll, Paediatrician, Dr Anthea Rhodes, said one of the most significant findings, that directly affected children’s health, was the impact of screen use at bedtime on sleep.



Almost half of children regularly use screen-based devices at bedtime, with one in four children reporting associated sleep problems.  Teenagers using screens routinely at bedtime were also more likely to report experiencing online bullying.   It’s best to have no screen-time an hour before bed and keep screens out of the bedroom, to ensure a better quality of sleep,” she said.



"The poll also reveals that 50 per cent of toddlers and preschoolers are using a screen-based device without supervision.



“The demands of the modern lifestyle mean a lot of parents are busy, so they use screen use as a digital babysitter.   We found that 85 per cent of parents of young children say they use screens to occupy their kids so they can get things done.”  Dr Rhodes said.



“There is little evidence to support the idea that screen use benefits the development of infants and toddlers, but physical playtime and face-to-face contact is proven to be critical to a child’s development.  If you do offer screen time to your young child, it’s better if you watch it with them, so you can talk together about what they are seeing and help children to learn from the experience.”



"When it comes to what’s happening in Australian households, Dr Rhodes said that many families are experiencing conflict over screen use and that a lack of physical activity and excessive use are big concerns to parents.



"Dr Rhodes adds that the poll identified a link between parents’ screen use and their children’s use of screens.



“A strong relationship was seen between parents’ screen use and that of their children.  Basically, a parent who has high levels of screen use is more likely to have a child with high levels of use.  Three-quarters of parents of children under six also said they do not put time limits on screen use.



"However, most parents told us that they do try to limit their children’s screen use but are not sure how to do this effectively,” she said.



"The current Australian guidelines for screen use in children were last updated in 2014, but Dr Rhodes says new guidelines may go some way in helping parents with their children’s screen use.



“These were developed before the widespread use of mobile screen devices.  Up-to-date guidelines and resources for parents, and healthcare workers, would give parents a base for developing healthy habits when it comes to screen use,” she said.



++  The Australian Child Health Poll overall key findings include the following.



  The majority of Australian children, across all age groups, are exceeding the current national recommended guidelines for screen time.


*      Eighty-five per cent of parents of young children (aged less than 6 years) said they used screen-based devices to occupy their kids so they could get things done with one in four doing this every day of the week.


*    Teenagers spend the most amount of time on a screen-based device at home, of any age group, at almost 44 hours on average per week – more than the time equivalent of a full time job.   Parents averaged almost 40 hours per week.


*   Younger children also spend a significant time using screens at home; infants and toddlers averaged 14 hours, the two to five year-olds 26 hours, and the six to 12-year age group averaged 32 hours per week.


Note:  "A screen-based device in this poll was defined as a television, computer, laptop, gaming console, iPhone, smartphone, iPad and other tablet." "




[The colouring and highlighting of text were added by me, ICOB.]






Safe Kids, Strong Families



Teen watching TV | Striking the Technology

Balance: How Much TV is Too Much?



A recent study by the American Academy of Paediatrics shows that increasing consumption of digital media by children could be having a negative impact on their development.



How much TV is too much?

"These days, technology is hard to avoid.   Smartphones have made it so that a full library of videos, games and other digital content is available for use anytime, anywhere at the flick of a finger.   The pervasiveness of the Internet, TV, computer and video games in our daily lives also means that technology is competing for our children’s attention at younger and younger ages.   In the United States, the average infant starts watching TV at only 5 months old and 82% of children will go online before they enter the 7th grade.



"While technology can be a powerful learning tool for children, when used in excess it can actually have a negative impact on a child’s development.   Multiple studies have shown that infants exposed to two or more hours of screen time before their first birthday makes them six times more likely to experience poor language development.



"Studies have also linked excessive television watching in children with a higher likelihood developing cognitive and social / emotional delays, obesity, and sleep disorders."



Children using a phone unsupervised

"This isn’t to say that parents should get rid of their TVs, smart phones and tablets.  Well-constructed educational programming or apps can be great learning aids for young children.   'Sesame Street', for example, has been shown to have a positive impact on the cognitive, literary and social development of 3- to 5-year-olds.  The real challenge for parents is to find programming that truly is useful and educational, and also to strike just the right balance of screen time for their child.  Knowing where to draw that line isn’t always easy, but parents can start to find that balance by being more mindful of the kind / quantity of digital media their child(ren) is exposed to and coming up with a family media plan that dictates when and how technology will be used at home."



['Sesame Street' was made many years ago.  Is it not telling that a more recent example of a television programme 'that truly is useful and educational' was not given?   Programmes like 'Sesame Street' are not made any more.   I believe its speed and rythym would be considered too slow by a modern programme commissioning editor.   Those are exactly what made it revolutionary in its day, and still perfect for young children.   ICOB.]





Here are FIVE things to consider when you are coming up with a Media Plan for your FAMILY



"Get involved, stay Involved      Whenever possible, try not to let your child spend their screen time alone.  Watch an episode of your child’s favourite programme with them or play with apps together.  Engaging with your child about the media they consume will help them better understand what they are seeing and learning, and how that applies to the world around them.


"Be Picky      Always make sure that you are choosing the highest-quality educational programming possible.   Closely monitor the content your child(ren) is / are consuming and be sure to thoroughly test / research apps before you allow your kid(s) to download them!


"Set Limits     According to the American Academy of Paediatrics, you should avoid using digital media with children 18-24 months old.   For children aged 2 to 5, the American Academy of Paediatrics recommends limiting screen time to 1 hour per day.


"Power Down      Always turn off all devices at least ONE hour before bedtime to help your child “wind down” before sleep.    Turn off the auto-play setting on your video players (Netflix, Hulu, etc) to prevent mindless “binge-watching”.   When you’ve finished using your devices get into the habit of turning them off completely and putting them away.


"Emphasize Family Time      Designate certain times or activities as “device free” and use that time to connect as a family.   For example, make a rule that no devices can be used during family dinners, etc."



[The colouring, highlighting, and underlining of text were added by me, ICOB.]








Outside the court, Det Supt Declan Daly said this case was a “timely reminder of the dangers that can occur on the internet and the need for parents to be vigilant of their children’s internet use”.



‘Exceptionally dangerous’

He said it was “exceptionally dangerous” for children to share images online, and that children should never agree to meet any person they encountered via the internet.



He said if images have been shared already, Gardaí­ recommend that children should not share any more images, stop all communication and tell a parent or appropriate adult.



“They should preserve the evidence and not delete anything, and they should report the matter to gardaí,” he said.









Gardaí have issued a strong warning to parents and children about dangers that can face them on the internet. Photograph: Mark Steadman/

Photograph: Mark Steadman/



Gardaí have issued a strong warning to parents and children about dangers that can face them on the internet. 



Gardaí [An Garda Síochána - the National Police Force of the Republic of Ireland] involved in the Matthew Horan investigation have issued a strong warning to parents and children about dangers that can face them on the internet.



Speaking to the media outside the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin, Det Supt Declan Daly of the Garda National Protective Services Bureau said, “Today serves as a timely reminder of the potential dangers that can occur on the internet.


“It also serves as a reminder for us all of the need for parents in particular to be vigilant of the internet use regarding their children” and serves “as a reminder for children themselves to be aware of the dangers that are on the internet.”



Flanked by colleague Det Garda David Connolly, and Det Sgt Maeve O’Sullivan of the Clondalkin Division of the Protective Services Unit, he repeated what he described as “the Garda’s key message on internet safety for children”.



 This emphasised that it is exceptionally dangerous to share images online.  “It is very, very dangerous and children should never arrange or agree to meet any person on the internet.”



If images were shared or if an approach is made on the internet to children, Gardaí recommended, “Firstly, what they should do is not share any more images.  They should stop all communication.  They should tell a parent or an appropriate adult.  They should preserve the evidence and not delete anything, and they should report the matter to An Garda Síochána,” he said.



Families, he said, “can go through a significant amount of stress and pain when images are shared online and we’d like to prevent that happening any further families.”



He commended all gardaí involved in the investigation, “in particular the gardaí attached to Clondalkin Detective Service Units, for their good and diligent work on this difficult case.



“I would also like to thank the victims and their families in this case and in other cases who have taken the brave step forward and given us valuable assistance, because without their assistance it certainly would be very, very difficult to get such results as we’ve had today,” he said.



[All text in italics is copied from the Irish Times online Articles.  The colouring of text and headings were added by me.]






Public Fury Over Online Abuse Must Push Big Tech to Act


Is proposed Digital Safety Commissioner role merely manoeuvring on a hot-topic issue?




Parents already feel outpaced by their children’s ability to use the internet, and are worried by regular media reports of cyberbullying. File photograph: iStockPhoto


Parents already feel outpaced by their children’s ability to use the internet, and are worried by regular media reports of cyberbullying.   

File photograph: iStockPhoto



Minister for Communications Denis Naughten’s statement of intent to appoint a Digital Safety Commissioner – a new statutory role which would involve monitoring and enforcing child online safety – would, in light of current events, appear timely.



Parents clearly already feel outpaced by their children’s ability to use the internet, and are worried by regular media reports of cyberbullying.



PGCs had to endure hearing deeply disturbing evidence of predatory online exploitation as Matthew Horan (26) and other paedophiles found guilty to using online platforms – Skype, Snapchat, Kik and Instagram – to approach and groom minors.



Appalling Case

As the appalling case dominated news cycles, and politicians and pundits argued over whether Ireland’s formal digital age of consent (the age from which it is legal for data controllers to hold data gathered from minors) was too low at 13, many individuals and organisations, including Grainne Long, chief executive of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC), came out in support of Naughten’s proposal.



The idea for the digital safety role was first floated in a 2016 report from the Law Reform Commission on Harmful Communications and Digital Safety.   With revenge porn and online bullying much in the news, the Report’s focus was broadly on harmful communications and internet safety for adults, as well as children.



Australian position was vociferously opposed by internet companies, which expressed alarm that a single person effectively could act as an online content censor, judge and jury.



The proposed Irish role could be modelled on positions created in New Zealand and Australia, according to Naughten.  Australia’s eSafety Commissioner was appointed in 2015, investigates complaints and can fine online operators up to AUS$17,000 (€11,000) per day for failing to comply with its demands.






At the time, the Australian position was vociferously opposed by internet companies, which expressed alarm that a single person effectively could act as an online content censor, judge and jury.





ePrivacy Legislation

With the ability to judge content, and issue and enforce content-takedown notices to internet and telecommunications companies, the Commissioner could come into conflict with the EU eCommerce Directive, notes Harrington.   Other legal experts said the position might also run afoul of incoming ePrivacy legislation, or overlap into the Irish Data Protection Commissioner’s (DPC) role.



However, a spokesperson for the office of the DPC said that insofar as the role has been discussed, the DPC would not see any conflict because each role would have a different focus.



But is such an Office actually needed, or merely political manoeuvring on an issue likely to gain voter support?



Certainly, little has been done since the Office was initially proposed 18 months ago.  And some formal submissions to the Law Reform Commission argued at the time that a specialist body with statutory powers was not needed, because existing laws and the courts could and should handle such cases.



In a submission, Digital Rights Ireland (DRI) wrote that ~

“cyber-harassment and other harmful cyber activity affecting personal safety, privacy and reputation do not require, for their resolution, any specialist technical expertise.   These are offences against the safety, privacy and reputation of the individual, as capable of being carried out online as off.   Accordingly, the only appropriate expert body to adjudicate such claims is a court of law.”



Microsoft, which owns message and telephony service Skype, said the companies have worked towards better online safety for many years.



Both the DRI submission in 2016, and Harrington in his blog post this week, also question whether Ireland’s reputation as a good location for business might suffer, were a new layer of Irish internet and communications regulation to be imposed.



Close to Meaningless

Yet internet and technology companies must certainly do better.  A London School of Economics professor, working with a board member for the UK Council for Child Internet Safetylast year found Instagram’s age controls to be close to meaningless.



Still, companies are aware of growing public opprobrium, and many aim to improve services.  Microsoft, which owns message and telephony service Skype, said the companies have worked towards better online safety for many years.



Skype and Microsoft have a strong commitment to helping children stay safe online, and we continue to collaborate with advocates, industry partners and governments worldwide to develop solutions and promote effective public policy,” Microsoft said in a statement.



Would a Digital Safety Commissioner accelerate improvements and set a rigorous example of enforcement, though?   If the Australian office serves as any indication of the need for such a role, the eSafety Commissioner there received nearly 12,000 complaints in its first 12 months of operation – but hadn’t fined anybody.




[All underlining and colouring of text and headlines were added by me, ICOB.]



What do Software Designers do to Protect their Own Children?

Image of vivid painting by Dublin Artist, Neil Douglas, at Courtesy of the Artist.







'Our minds can be hijacked', 



The Guardian article by Paul Lewis.


'Our minds can be hijacked': the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia.



By Paul Lewis in San Francisco


The Guardian, Weekend magazine technology special

Friday 6 October 2017 06.00 BST

Last modified on Monday 9 October 2017 20.23 BST



Google, Twitter and Facebook  workers who helped make technology so addictive are disconnecting themselves from the internet.   Paul Lewis reports on the Silicon Valley refuseniks alarmed by a race for human attention.



"Justin Rosenstein had tweaked his laptop’s operating system to block Reddit, banned himself from Snapchat, which he compares to heroin, and imposed limits on his use of Facebook.    But even that wasn’t enough.    In August, the 34-year-old tech executive took a more radical step to restrict his use of social media and other addictive technologies.



"Rosenstein purchased a new iPhone and instructed his assistant to set up a parental-control feature to prevent him from downloading any apps.



"He was particularly aware of the allure of Facebook “likes”, which he describes as “bright dings of pseudo-pleasure” that can be as hollow as they are seductive.   And Rosenstein should know: he was the Facebook engineer who created the “like” button in the first place.



"A decade after he stayed up all night coding a prototype of what was then called an “awesome” button, Rosenstein belongs to a small but growing band of Silicon Valley heretics who complain about the rise of the so-called “attention economy”: an internet shaped around the demands of an advertising economy.



"These refuseniks are rarely founders or chief executives, who have little incentive to deviate from the mantra that their companies are making the world a better place.   Instead, they tend to have worked a rung or two down the corporate ladder: designers, engineers and product managers who, like Rosenstein, several years ago put in place the building blocks of a digital world from which they are now trying to disentangle themselves.   “It is very common,” Rosenstein says, “for humans to develop things with the best of intentions and for them to have unintended, negative consequences.”



"Rosenstein, who also helped create Gchat during a stint at Google, and now leads a San Francisco-based company that improves office productivity, appears most concerned about the psychological effects on people who, research shows, touch, swipe or tap their phone 2,617 times a day.



"There is growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called “continuous partial attention”, severely limiting people’s ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ.    



One recent study showed that the mere presence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity – even when the device is turned off.    “Everyone is distracted,” Rosenstein says.   “All of the time.”



"But those concerns are trivial compared with the devastating impact upon the political system that some of Rosenstein’s peers believe can be attributed to the rise of social media and the attention-based market that drives it.



"Drawing a straight line between addiction to social media and political earthquakes like Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump, they contend that digital forces have completely upended the political system and, left unchecked, could even render democracy as we know it obsolete.



"In 2007, Rosenstein was one of a small group of Facebook employees who decided to create a path of least resistance – a single click – to “send little bits of positivity” across the platform.  Facebook’s “like” feature was, Rosenstein says, “wildly” successful: engagement soared as people enjoyed the short-term boost they got from giving or receiving social affirmation, while Facebook harvested valuable data about the preferences of users that could be sold to advertisers.    The idea was soon copied by Twitter, with its heart-shaped “likes” (previously star-shaped “favourites”), Instagram, and countless other apps and websites.



"It was Rosenstein’s colleague, Leah Pearlman, then a product manager at Facebook and on the team that created the Facebook “like”, who announced the feature in a 2009 blogpost.   Now 35 and an illustrator, Pearlman confirmed via email that she, too, has grown disaffected with Facebook “likes” and other addictive feedback loops.  She has installed a web browser plug-in to eradicate her Facebook news feed, and hired a social media manager to monitor her Facebook page so that she doesn’t have to.



"Justin Rosenstein, the former Google and Facebook engineer who helped build the ‘like’ button:  'Everyone is distracted. All of the time.’



" “One reason I think it is particularly important for us to talk about this now is that we may be the last generation that can remember life before,” Rosenstein says.   It may or may not be relevant that Rosenstein, Pearlman, and most of the tech insiders questioning today’s attention economy are in their 30s, members of the last generation that can remember a world in which telephones were plugged into walls.



"It is revealing that  many of these younger technologists are weaning themselves off their own products, sending their children to elite Silicon Valley schools where iPhones, iPads and even laptops are banned.    They appear to be abiding by a Biggie Smalls lyric from their own youth about the perils of dealing crack cocaine: never get high on your own supply.



"One morning in April this year, designers, programmers and tech entrepreneurs from across the world gathered at a conference centre on the shore of the San Francisco Bay.  They had each paid up to $1,700 to learn how to manipulate people into habitual use of their products, on a course curated by conference organiser Nir Eyal.



"Eyal, 39, the author of 'Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products', has spent several years consulting for the tech industry, teaching techniques he developed by closely studying how the Silicon Valley giants operate.



“The technologies we use have turned into compulsions, if not full-fledged addictions,” Eyal writes.  “It’s the impulse to check a message notification.  It’s the pull to visit YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter for just a few minutes, only to find yourself still tapping and scrolling an hour later.”    None of this is an accident, he writes.   It is all “just as their designers intended”.



"He explains the subtle psychological tricks that can be used to make people develop habits, such as varying the rewards people receive to create “a craving”, or exploiting negative emotions that can act as “triggers”.    “Feelings of boredom, loneliness, frustration, confusion and indecisiveness often instigate a slight pain or irritation and prompt an almost instantaneous and often mindless action to quell the negative sensation,” Eyal writes.



"Attendees of the 2017 Habit Summit might have been surprised when Eyal walked on stage to announce that this year’s keynote speech was about “something a little different”.    He wanted to address the growing concern that technological manipulation was somehow harmful or immoral.    


"He told his audience that they should be careful not to abuse persuasive design, and wary of crossing a line into coercion.



"But he was defensive of the techniques he teaches, and dismissive of those who compare tech addiction to drugs.  “We’re not freebasing Facebook and injecting Instagram here,” he said.   He flashed up a slide of a shelf filled with sugary baked goods.   “Just as we shouldn’t blame the baker for making such delicious treats, we can’t blame tech makers for making their products so good we want to use them,” he said.   “Of course that’s what tech companies will do.   And frankly: do we want it any other way?”



"Without irony, Eyal finished his talk with some personal tips for resisting the lure of technology.    He told his audience he uses a Chrome extension, called DF YouTube, “which scrubs out a lot of those external triggers” he writes about in his book, and recommended an app called Pocket Points that “rewards you for staying off your phone when you need to focus”."



[Colouring, highlighting, underlining, and italics in the text were added by me, ICOB.]





 Copyright: <a href=''>gurb / 123RF Stock Photo</a>








The piece below draws hugely on the article by Dr Dennis Coates, 'Video Game Addiction and Brain Damage'.



Dr Coates works in the fields of Adolescence, Critical-Thinking, Health & Nutrition, Self-Esteem, and Teen Culture.  His website,, is very accessible and an interesting read.


Video games are an enormous part of youth culture now and the business has a greater income than the film industry.



The gaming companies invest huge sums in advertising their products, paying for high profile endorsements, and especially in making them addictive - so that once one game is over, another is needed NOW!


Particularing worry to me are the first person (FP) shooter games Well after the game has finished, the player is still ramped up on adrenalin and cortisol, retaining the feelings of violence and destruction, but without a suitable recipient.  This excess of hormones can lead to sudden, totally unforeseen, episodes of violence or aggressive language or behaviour.   Read through the list below of over-production of brain hormones in someone who over-uses video games. 


These are literally destructive in excessive and sustained quantities.



My own studies based on over-use of laptops, computers, Smartphone, iPads, Tablets, and the like, show similar tendencies of withdrawal from friendships and family, isolation, and possibly a touch of paranoia.  The significant loss of sleep is a serious detriment to any young child or teenager.  There are definite risks of brain development restriction, and physical development can be stunted.



Dr Coates's points follow.


In moderation, they have benefits for a young person:

  • The games are fun, engaging, and exciting
  • Players strive to prevail against challenges and achieve goals
  • They can be a hero in the virtual world of the game
  • The sense of accomplishment can boost self-esteem
  • They can play the games with their friends
  • Some of the games actually promote critical thinking.


But as with any other stimulant, too much of a good thing can have damaging consequences.


  • Video games are a HUGE industry, much bigger than movies.  For business reasons, the games are designed to be addictive.  Success in a game triggers dopamine, the reward neurotransmitter, making the child want to spend more time gaming.


  • Like alcohol, it’s a slippery slope. A fun half-hour can easily turn into an hour. An hour can lead to several hours, even all night or all weekend.


  • Virtual reality affects the brain the same as ordinary reality.  Exciting challenges stimulate the production of adrenaline and cortisol.  These natural reactions subside if the event is momentary.  But cortisol build-up in brain cells caused by prolonged stress can kill brain cells in the hippocampus (memory and learning) and prefrontal cortex (the smart part of the brain). 


  • Normal development of the prefrontal cortex could be disrupted.


  • After hours of simulated combat, because of residual cortisol in the brain, the keyed-up combative mindset continues after putting the game away.


  • Opportunity costs are huge.  Time spent in front of a screen is time not spent relating to friends and family, doing homework, helping with chores, learning life skills, getting physical exercise, or enjoying the natural world.  Even sleep and hygiene can be neglected.


  • Once addicted, the child will find it almost impossible to give up gaming for healthy, productive, activities.  As problems build in normal life, self-esteem is degraded.


  • The most exciting and addictive games are the shooter games.  Minute by minute, hour by hour, a child’s brain is exposed to countless emotionally-charged images of killing people – great for the video game industry, awful for the young gamer.


Do you think your child has enough maturity and self-discipline to drink alcohol in moderation?  Of course not.

Do you think your child has enough maturity and self-discipline to play video games in moderation?   Hardly  …



Moderation is half an hour a day, or maybe an hour if your child is a top student.



So no, they can’t handle it without your help – your rules, boundaries, monitoring, and consistently enforced consequences – to prevent excessive exposure to gaming screens.



Fun for the whole family or dangerous addiction?

It may come to you as a surprise that something so much fun and promoted so thoroughly in our culture can be so toxic.


Back in the day, cigarettes were promoted to young people.  Everyone thought smoking was cool until research revealed that it caused lung cancer.  The tobacco industry didn’t care; they hired their own scientists to come up with their own research.  Without federal regulations, cigarettes would still be promoted to young people.



Now, it’s video games.  Playing the right games (educational, strategy and sports games), while avoiding the shooter games, and playing in moderation can be beneficial.  But like the tobacco industry, the gaming industry knows its products are addictive and unhealthy, but they don’t care.



You may be wondering which games are first-person shooter (FPS) games.  With new games being introduced all the time, the answer changes.  Google top shooter games and click on some of the links.



Yeah, it’s scary. Violence is scary. Derailed brain development is scary.  Addiction is scary.  Go to YouTube and search on video game addiction".



This scary aspect of video games is only recently being acknowledged. 



If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to read the "World Health Organization’s Report on “Gaming Disorder".









I found this piece on the Site, 'Teacher Training and Education', on LinkedIn, introduced by Adrian Sladdin, Director of Education at Young Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM), and gives very helpful information for families which can be found at the address below.    



If you have any notion, worry, or the least fear one of your youngsters may be in over his or her head,

You need to get a hold on what’s going on, NOW.   



Check out the British registered charity, the Young Gamblers Education Trust (known as YGAM) - whose aim is quoted as 'with a social purpose to ‘inform, educate and safeguard young people against problematic gambling & social gaming’."


This is a topic to which I shall return.






Copyright © 2017 YGAM Innovations.  All rights reserved.


The following is edited text copied from the YGAM website   


YGAM claim is that - We are a UK-registered charity with a social purpose to ‘inform, educate and safeguard young people against problematic gambling & social gaming’.




How to Prepare Children for a World of Fake News

Here is my photograph from the garden. I wonder why so many blossoms come in varying shades of blue.





 Young people have to be helped develop critical capacity to discern fact from fiction.



Thu, Mar 28, 2019, 07:01, The Irish Times


Barry O'Rourke



News production has become more sophisticated and as a consequence, disinformation can be more difficult to detect.



Do you all know the story of the Three Little Pigs?  No, I mean the real story?  Not that fairy tale we’ve all been conned into believing, but the true version – of how that poor wolf was framed by the fake news agenda.


Those clever pigs and their PR team.


‘The True Story of the Three Little Pigs’, by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, is a fantastic book that lets children learn about perspective, bias and verification.  The wolf, who is now behind bars in prison, offers a different side to one of the world’s best known stories.  He feels the news media weren’t excited by the innocent truth at all, and so they made him out to be a monster, something children have great fun in debating when presented with all the facts.



He explains that all he wanted was a cup of sugar from his neighbours, the pigs, to bake Granny Wolf a birthday cake.



But what about all his huffing and puffing?


It was sneezing; he had a cold after all.  Of course, those pigs really should have built better houses anyway.


It’s a simple question through a story lesson, and one that adults can think about too – how do we know what we know?


Where did the information come from, and does this even matter?


So did everyone fall for the pigs’ fake news agenda?



Children Need Media Literacy Skills

Children consume news every day, from learning at school to hearing the latest in music, film, gaming and sport.





And they are creators of news too.  Anyone who has a social media profile can create news.



With this in mind, it is important children can navigate around the internet safely.  Not to be scaremongering, but if a tweet can go viral around the globe in under one minute, it’s time we equip children on understanding the where, what and why of information more seriously.



Developing media literacy skills is necessary if children are to better understand the media around them. It is important children build up their own sense of asking questions that empowers them to make good decisions on information.


So how best do we do teach this?


And at this rate, would you even believe me if I told you?



The Internet has Changed the Playing Field

Ricardo Castellini da Silva is a PhD candidate and researcher at FuJo, the Institute for Future Media and Journalism.  His work investigates the many ways in which new digital media technologies can be used to promote media literacy for schoolchildren.



While there has always been disinformation in the world, technology has certainly changed the playing field, Castellini feels.  “The difference now is that the advent of the internet created a completely different situation in terms of how information and news are produced and consumed in our societies.”



“Whereas before the production and distribution of news were in the hands of just a few powerful people, nowadays virtually anyone can create and spread fake stories on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, or multiplatform messaging services, such as WhatsApp.”


News production has become more sophisticated and as a consequence, disinformation can be more difficult to detect, which Castellini says “poses a serious threat to people’s capacity to make sense of the reality around them”.



Can this Affect Children?

“A recent study by the Stanford History Education Group showed that students – middle school, high school and college – were very bad at distinguishing between fake and true information online,” Castellini says.  “In relation to children this is even more problematic because they are in different developmental stages compared to older students, and thus it is more difficult for them – or even impossible, depending on the age group – to acquire the critical thinking skills necessary to evaluate the information they consume.  Another challenge is that the people responsible for preparing the children to fight disinformation – mainly parents and teachers – don’t know exactly how to do that.”



Castellini says that even within academia, screen time, monitoring the use of the internet and the best tools to use in avoiding disinformation, are still subject to debate.  “New media is a recent field of studies and for this reason it is understandable that academics and researchers are still working on the answers.”  He says there is a general feeling the problem is “completely out of control, and for this reason we need to work hard and fast in order to find solutions for it”.



So What can Parents and Teachers Do?

“The first thing is that parents and teachers should start speaking openly with children about fake news,” Castellini says.  “The idea that there are people creating fake stories out there and that this can cause serious harm to anyone should be openly discussed.



“Children are not allowed to be on Facebook until they are 13, and the vast majority of them have no interest in Twitter whatsoever.



“Of course we know that some children end up having a Facebook account before they turn 13, sometimes tightly controlled by their parents, sometimes not.  But in theory they tend to be less exposed to social media’s fake news.  However, children use Google, and the search platform can also be a big source of fake news.



“Parents and teachers can learn how to use the many searching tools available on Google – such as filters, search operators etc – and pass this information on to children, so that their research skills can be improved, which is a good first step towards fighting disinformation when they get older.”



What is Fake about Fake News?   Disinformation!

Dr Eileen Culloty is a post-doctoral researcher at FuJo, who along with Dr Jane Suiter, is working on a Horizon 2020 project funded by the European Commission on tracking online disinformation.  “Disinformation refers to false information that is deliberately pushed into the public arena,” Culloty explains.  “It often mimics journalism formats, which is confusing for citizens and undermines journalistic media.



“Fake news is not a helpful term because it tends to be used to discredit a source someone doesn’t like.  For example, Donald Trump calls CNN fake news because he doesn’t like the way it reports his presidency.



“Also, much of the misleading content we find online isn’t entirely fake; it’s original content that is distorted or manipulated slightly so disinformation is a more accurate term.”



Why are We Hearing so Much About It?

“Although there has always been disinformation and propaganda, many countries are experiencing increased levels of disinformation, which is often linked to the rise of populist and radical right-wing movements,” Culloty says.  “The targets which have received the most attention are political actors, but minority groups such as immigrants and refugees are also major targets.  Globally, this disinformation presents a major threat to the stability of political and social institutions.”



 [Colouring and highlighting in the text were added by me, ICOB.]






Best of Luck!

Regards, Iseult

Iseult Catherine O'Brien




If you have any comments, positive or negative, I should welcome hearing your views.  If you find any errors or wish to disagree with any of the above, please let me know.




I am an elected Member of The Tutors' Association. 



See my LinkedIn site for further information






If I quote a person, group, organisation, or establishment, I do my very best to source the material quoted, and to attribute it properly.  If I cannot satisfy myself I have found the author or speaker who voiced a quote, I resist using it, no matter how tasty a bite!  If I refer in passing to views expressed by others, I attribute the views even if they have not been given verbatim in the text.


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