Northern Ireland

'Hateful content' more likely to be seen by Northern Ireland children

Girl using a laptop Image copyright PA

Children in Northern Ireland are more likely to have seen "hateful content" online than their counterparts in England, Scotland or Wales.

That is according to new research published by the media watchdog Ofcom.

But just over half of parents in Northern Ireland agreed that the benefits of their child being online outweighs the risks.

The Ofcom findings are only based on 351 in-depth interviews with parents and children in Northern Ireland.

A total of 2,343 interviews with parents of children aged 5-15 and children aged 8-15 were carried out across the UK.

Ofcom's 'Media Use and Attitudes Report 2019' looked at a number of aspects of the online lives and viewing habits of children and young people.

Children in Northern Ireland who took part reported being more likely than those in England, Scotland or Wales to say they had seen hateful content online.

Hateful content

Ofcom defined hateful content as abusive online material or comments about particular groups of people based on - for instance - their gender, religion, disability, sexuality or gender identity.

Almost two-thirds of children (62%) in Northern Ireland reported seeing such content online - much higher than in England (52%), Scotland (45%) and Wales (37%).

Image copyright Getty Images

However, children in Northern Ireland who took part in the research were also the least likely to be aware of ways to report hateful content.

According to Ofcom, parents in Northern Ireland were much less likely than parents in other parts of the UK to be aware of, or use, content filters and parental control software.

Streaming services

Just under three-quarters (73%) also said they knew enough to be confident of keeping their children safe online, but that was a lower proportion that in England, Scotland or Wales.

Their research also suggests that just over half (55%) of parents in Northern Ireland believe that the benefits of their children being online outweigh the risks, but that is significantly less than the proportion of parents in Wales and Scotland.

The Ofcom report also suggests half of 10-year-olds in the UK own a smartphone.

At age 15, almost all children own their own smartphones.

As more children and young people use streaming services like Youtube and Netflix, traditional TV watching is also falling.

Each UK nation saw a drop in the number of broadcast TV hours that children watched in the first half of 2019 compared to the first half of 2018,

Northern Ireland had the largest decrease with children watching six-and-a-half hours of TV a week in 2019, down from nine-and-a-half hours in 2018.

However, among children aged 12-15, the BBC remained the most used and most important news source followed by Facebook and Youtube.

WhatsApp, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram were the top social media platforms used by children.

However, Ofcom said that Tiktok and Twitch were gaining in popularity.

Their research also suggested that the more time a child spent on social media, the higher their chance of becoming a target of bullying.