Dáil debates

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill 2022: Second Stage


4:27 pm

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party) | Oireachtas source

Four minutes is very little time to do justice to an extremely significant and far-reaching piece of legislation. I understand it has received very detailed scrutiny on the Seanad Stages. I know the committee has been extremely active in that space and that the Minister has been very responsive in respect of the amendments that have been suggested and put forward. I was thinking about smartphones like the yoke I am holding in the context of this debate. The iPhone only went on sale first in 2007. It is difficult to conceive of a technology that has rewired all of our brains in such a short space of time. I predate it. Thankfully I am a walking history lesson - we get to be that if we live long enough. The children I used to teach, much like Deputy Crowe, have grown up in this environment and it is ubiquitous. It is everywhere. It dominates their waking world, it follows them into their bedrooms. There is no part of their lives or their world that digital technology does not reach into. We are seeing that massively in terms of young people's conception of their body image, the unattainable norms that are held up to them to try to achieve, and in the ease and pernicious nature of online bullying. There is no escape from it. They cannot close their front door or even their bedroom door on online bullying.

This is an extremely important Bill to which I will struggle to do justice in the time available. I want to focus on two aspects. Ar dtosach báire, tosóidh mé amach ar mholadh atá curtha ar aghaidh ag Conradh na Gaeilge. Ionas go mbeidh an Bille seo i gcomhréir leis na forálacha atá leagtha amach san Acht teanga, tá sé á mholadh ag Conradh na Gaeilge go mbeidh an cathaoirleach agus ar a laghad comhalta amháin eile den choimisiún inniúil ar úsáid na Gaeilge. Glacaim leis go bhfuil an tAire an-tiomanta i leith na Gaeilge. B'fhéidir go mbreathnóidh sí ar an leasú seo ag Céim an Choiste.

The other thing I wanted to touch on was online gambling as it pertains to young people. This is in response to an email I received from a constituent who is extremely worried about its impact on the teenagers in his house. I was shocked to find we are the third-ranked country in the world in terms of gambling spend per head of adult population, with only Australia and Singapore ahead of us. We know particularly from the GAA fraternity, where a lot of the intercounty players have spoken about how easy it is now. It is on their phone and reaches into every aspect of their lives. There is no time when that betting shop closes its door. Someone can do it at 3 o'clock in the morning and if they are at it at 3 o'clock in the morning it is very difficult to put down. Also, increasingly we are seeing advertising that is directed at people who are not adults. I am referring to older teenagers and even younger children. Deputy Cathal Crowe was talking about the games that are available on the iPads. A lot of those have an element in them that begins to train our young people in that pay-off - spin the wheel, see what turns up.

There is a real need in our society. The Minister led with the idea of this Bill being very much about protecting our children and young people. We need to strengthen that because those pieces of mobile technology that unlock so much in our world are also ubiquitous. It means there is no door that we can close to them and that these concerns reach into every aspect of our young people’s lives.

I would like the Minister to look at strengthening the Gaeilge provisions in the Bill and how best we protect our young people from what can become a serious and lifelong gambling addiction.


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