Over three-quarters of eight-year-olds own a smart device and almost half are already using social media and messaging apps.

That is according to figures released on Safer Internet Day by CyberSafeIreland.

The survey of over 1,200 children, aged between eight and 10, found that almost 40% are speaking to strangers online with almost a third of them speaking to strangers every day or at least once a week.  

10% of those surveyed were online for more than four hours every day.

Almost a quarter were playing over-18 video games containing violent or sexually inappropriate content. 

The research also found that more than a third of the eight to 10-year-olds rarely or never spoke to their parents about online safety.

CyberSafeIreland Chief Executive Alex Cooney said there needs to be a national parental online safety campaign which gives guidance and support for parents.

Ms Cooney highlights the importance of parents engaging in their children's online lives in order to protect them from risk but also to empower them to use the Internet safely and responsibly.

She is encouraging parents to start early and to make informed decisions and choices when their children are still young.  

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Cliona Curley, a cybercrime analysis with CyberSafeIreland, said that legislation is too focused on smart phones when in reality children can access many of the same messaging services on other smart devices like tablets.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, she said there are technical settings on many of these devices that can be enabled by parents to manage what children are accessing, but often parents do not use them.

"A lot of times parents don't know about them or feel they are too complicated they're the kind of things that are a little bit different on every device," she said.