One in ten children, some as young as nine, have looked at inappropriate sexual imagery online, according to a new EU survey.
The report, Towards a Better Internet for Children, is part of a study looking at 25,000 families in 25 countries across Europe, and is funded by the European Commission's Safer Internet Programme. It showed that 11pc of Irish children reported seeing sexual images online.
Across the EU, the average was 14pc.
It showed that teens and preteens were clicking through the internet to look at porn sites, webpages about anorexia and sites describing suicide techniques.
The survey also showed that one in three parents are concerned that their children may meet a stranger online. According to the report, 25pc of children said they viewed websites about anorexia while four percent had seen websites that show suicide techniques.
Twenty per cent said that they ignored warnings to report inappropriate sites.
One of the experts who wrote the report, Dr Brian O'Neill, of the Dublin Institute of Technology said that the study raised “a lot of questions and concerns”.
Dr O'Neill told the Daily Mail: “The results are alarming. The evidence would also suggest that Irish parents are now extremely worried about what their children are seeing on the internet.”
However the figures showed that Irish parents were amongst the most responsible in Europe when it came to monitoring their children's internet usage. Fifty one per cent monitor what their children look at online, while 48pc use internet filters.
By comparision, 54pc of UK parents use internet filtering, while 49pc monitor their children's internet research.
In contrast, only 14pc of Danish parents use internet filtering, and only 11pc monitor what their children see online.
The EU average for parents monitoring their children's online usage was 27pc.
Children's charities have called for measures to make it easier for parents to protect children from adult material online. They want internet service providers to create an “opt-in” system which will block access to online pornography unless adults specifically ask for it.
The Government in the UK has outlined proposals to implement a similar system.
Norah Gibbons, of Barnardos, told the Daily Mail that the report demonstrated that children were more technologically aware than their parents. She said that efforts to protect Irish children from inappropriate internet sites to date been “inadequate and unsuccessful”.
She called on internet service providers to look at the “opt-in” model. Fianna Fáil spokesperson on children, Charlie McConalogue, echoed the call, saying that such a model “would make a lot of sense”. He said he would be asking the Minister for Children to examine the issue.