Barnardo’s ‘Three Hazards’ Report

This research study was commissioned by Barnardos Children’s Charity and undertaken between April and September of 2008 by on their behalf. The actual document presented to Barnardos was named Child Protection in Computerisation but this was edited to conform to Freedom of Information standards for which Minister Andrews who released the report was required to comply.


This research focuses on three primary hazard areas for children:

1) Children's Data Privacy: the security and administration of stored children's data, and the policy and physical means through which that data is accessed, and transported physically or through electronic networks.

2) Children's Personal Privacy: the policy and means through which children are individually identified, and can maintain selective data privacy.

3) Child Sex Abuse Imagery: restricting access to the means through which such unlawful media is available to consumers.


Contributions were sought from people in positions of governance and management in the information technology domain of organizations operating in child related sectors including Healthcare Agencies, Education, Government Departments, Telecommunications Companies, Child Service Organizations, IT Security Companies and Software Manufacturers etc.


Press Release 21 October 2009 - The Minister for Children, Barry Andrews TD, today launched a report published by Barnardos entitled Three Hazards - Child Protection in the Electronic Age. The report highlights a number of dangers faced by children and young people, and calls on the government to take action to minimise the risks to them. Introducing the report, Barnardos CEO Fergus Finlay said: The report highlights three of the main hazards facing children and young people in the age of the computer and the internet, including; privacy and protection, the security of data and the ever increasing market for child pornography. The report makes recommendations on the steps necessary to minimise risk to young people.


Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Barry Andrews T.D., welcomed the report saying, "I expect the publication by Barnardos of Three Hazards - Child Protection in the Electronic Age to play a significant role in the formulation of Government policy in this area. The development of new age media brings many benefits in terms of social networking, accessibility and educational opportunity. However, new media represents a very powerful medium for the proliferation of material and data that gives rise to child protection concerns. There is a responsibility on content providers, service providers, parents, Government and wider society to protect children in the digital age."


The Barnardos report deals with issue of privacy and protection for children, especially in the age of social networking. On the internet, anyone can pretend to be anyone else - a ten-year old can pretend to a lot more maturity than they have, and a fifty-year old with an interest in grooming can pretend to be a teenager. Without adequate security, the policing of the internet to protect children is extremely difficult, and there are few if any standards in application.


It highlights that an enormous amount of data relating to children and young people is held on the internet by a variety of people such as schools and colleges, government departments, the health system, and a host of private providers of services. Standards of security are hugely variable, and are not covered by law as they should be. In addition the report looks at the enormous market on the internet for child sexual abuse imagery, and the way in which the technology is used and manipulated by people with an interest in paedophilia. The pornography industry is now considered to be one of the fastest growing criminal activities on the internet today, and approximately one fifth of all Internet pornography is child pornography or CSAI. New technology such as inexpensive digital cameras and internet distribution has made it easier than ever before to produce and distribute child pornography.


Following here are the report recommendations:

1) Urgent consideration should be given to the development of a commercially viable Age Verification and Identity Management (AV/IDM) program for children.


2) A number of amendments are necessary to the Data Protection Act, to create a criminal offence for persons who represent themselves as a child when contacting children through electronic means; to create an offence for any organisation to display personal data belonging to a child; and for other reasons.


3) It must become a legal requirement that all data held in respect of children is subject to proper legal controls and standards. Any organisation wishing to store data relating to children must be licensed to do so. The powers and remit of the Data Protection Commissioner must be extended to cover this area.


4) Paedophile Investigation Unit : This unit of the Garda Siochana should be enhanced and publicised in a similar manner to the UK’s CEOP to deter the operations of Irish and UK based paedophiles operating through Ireland. In the absence of other practical controls on internet usage, raising the profile of this unit could be a significant deterrent to those who may wish to threaten the security of a child in our jurisdiction.


5) The development of legislation (Child Exploitation Material Site Notice and Take Down (Blocking) Policy) to enable the Gardai to operate a blocking system for content on the internet that involves the criminal exploitation and abuse of children. This system would operate, as in other jurisdictions, by internet service providers being advised of the existence of websites carrying such material, and being ordered to take them down. The system must be mandatory for all providers.


6) The development of a targeted communications campaign, focussed on parents and children separately, outlining the dangers of online/internet activity.


7) The creation of a simple but effective ‘Panic Button’ on sites facilitating interactivity involving children that allows a child that is worried about a developing difficulty to get immediate support from an agency such as Child Line, Parent Line, Hotline, An Garda Siochana, or other organisations participating in this service. This exists in the UK and is highly successful as both an outlet for a concerned child, and a deterrent to a person behaving in a manner not appropriate to that child.


8) The restructure of the Office for Internet Safety to ensure that it is independent of all vested interests, and placed on a statutory footing.


Child Watch Note - These recommendations formulated in 2008 remain striking to this day - June 2018