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Question

69. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if her attention has been drawn to the increasing proliferation of social media applications that are being used by young persons and children to arrange online and offline exchanges with strangers; the steps she is taking to ensure the safety of children using these apps; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39927/16]

70. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if her attention has been drawn to growing concerns in relation to cyber safety for children and young persons including apps which purport to be regarding friendship but are open to predatory behaviour and inappropriate posting; when she expects the sections of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015that deal with exploitation of children to be operational; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40298/16]

Answer

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I propose to take Questions Nos. 69 and 70 together.
The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill, which was published in September 2015, includes measures to significantly strengthen existing criminal law in combatting child exploitation and, in particular, address the use of modern communication technologies as a tool which may lead to child sexual exploitation. The Bill has completed passage through Seanad Éireann and is awaiting Report Stage in Dáil Éireann. It is expected that the Bill will be enacted in early 2017.
In September 2016 the Law Reform Commission published its Report on Harmful Communications and Digital Safety. The Commission noted the positive benefits to society of every increasing interconnectedness as well as the negative aspects of this, and the emerging trends to engage in online communications that cause significant harm to others. It is my intention to bring proposals to Government in relation to the criminal law aspects of the Law Reform Commission's Report very shortly.
In ongoing support for safe internet usage, my Department's Office for Internet Safety produces a range of supports and materials, including booklets aimed at parents and teachers which are available on the website www.internetsafety.ie and in 2016 almost 40,000 hard copy booklets have been distributed.
Finally, the Deputy may also be aware that the Garda Schools Programme is very active in delivering talks to children in both primary and secondary schools on many aspects of safety including online safety.