Foróige Launches the Connect Safely Programme

Alan December 9, 2022

The Connect Safely Programme, funded by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, was launched in the CHQ Building in Dublin City Centre. Newstalk's Technology Correspondent, Jess Kelly hosted today’s event and held a panel discussion with experts, Dr. Aphra Kerr of Maynooth University and Stephen Bryne, formerly of RTÉ’s 2FM. 

The Connect Safely Programme, which was developed by Foróige, is an interactive programme that encourages young people to act responsibly online while ensuring they know the risks as well as the benefits from being online. It encourages young people to apply 21st century skills including critical thinking, problem solving, effective communication, collaboration and creativity when they are online.

To learn more about the Connect Safely Programme and sign up for training, ask questions or stay updated click here.

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O'Gorman, commented “In today’s world, young people have access to all types of information at their fingertips. They have grown up in a world where computers, smart phones, social media and the internet are part of everyday life. More young people are online more often and while this presents many opportunities for them and their development, it also brings into sharp focus the need to do more to safeguard young people online and ensure that they are savvy in their online interactions”.

“Young people who engage in the programme will gain knowledge and skills in important areas such as cyberbullying, digital footprint, screen time and well-being, gaming and gambling, online relationships and sexting. My hope now is that as many youth organisations as possible roll this out and ultimately as many young people as possible get the opportunity to participate in it.”

Anna Finnegan, a member of the Youth Advocacy group aged 17, spoke from a youth perspective on navigating the digital world safely “I started on the internet young, around six years old, and since then I have seen the advantages and disadvantages. That’s why I feel so passionate about this programme, my peers are crying out for open conversations and a clear toolkit to navigate through it.”

To learn more about the Connect Safely Programme and sign up for training, ask questions or stay updated click here.

Speaking on the panel, Dr. Aphra Kerr suggested that moving forward “Young people shouldn’t have to rely on their own resilience to deal with the online world. We need to make sure that young people in Ireland are prepared for what the digital world will throw at them. The onus shouldn’t be on them, we need more programmes like this to ensure they have all the tools and resources necessary.”

Stephen Byrne reflecting on his own experience commented “I should not have been in many spaces that I found myself in but if I was equipped with the right skills and education, it would have been a lot safer and that’s why this programme is so important. I always say the internet was more of a wild west back then but I think I'm proved wrong on that every day. Young people in Ireland are going to benefit hugely from this programme.”

Barbara Daly, Chairperson of Foróige, stated “This programme is a welcome, timely and much needed sectoral response in what is a rapidly evolving technological age. While advances in technology have been a feature of the workplace since the industrial revolution, the accelerated pace of growth, change and application of new technologies to every part of our daily lives brings both risks and opportunities in the lives of young people, and indeed in how youth work itself is delivered.”

The programme was created by the Connect Safely Advisory Committee which included organisations such as, Foróige, Maynooth University, Dublin City University’s Anti-Bullying Centre, Webwise, Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, National Youth Council of Ireland, An Garda Síochána and Children’s Rights Alliance.

To learn more about the Connect Safely Programme and sign up for training, ask questions or stay updated click here.

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