Effects of cyber bullying on children discussed at Wicklow JPC
THE devastating impact that cyber bullying can have on children and young people was discussed at the recent Wicklow Joint Policing Committee meeting, where Sgt John Fitzpatrick gave an overview of how it can be prevented and what steps gardaí can take, if necessary.
Sgt Fitzpatrick detailed a number of harrowing stories of teenagers lost to suicide after they were victims of cyber bullying and outlined to committee members what exactly constitutes this sort of bullying.
He said that the issue is being addressed through the primary and secondary school curriculum and that, often, young people do not realise the effect of things they do online, in the real world.
Being cautious about the identity of others and being selective of what to share online, are of vital importance when it comes to educating children on the issue, so that they do not later find themselves in a vulnerable position in terms of content shared privately but later shared without consent.
‘When we visit schools, we outline what activities are illegal and that what they do online could potentially get them into trouble. We also encourage anyone who is being bullied not to respond to the message, but to keep it and to tell someone they trust,’ said Sgt Fitzpatrick.
Cllr Daire Nolan welcomed the presentation and queried if there were any statistics to indicate how prevalent the problem of cyber bullying is.
‘Do people come forward?’ he asked.
Sgt Fitzpatrick said that in most cases the matter is resolved at school level, if the victim confides in an adult.
‘We encourage schools to deal with it before matters escalate,’ he said.
Cllr Nolan expressed concern that many parents are often unaware of their children’s online activity and use smart devices and computers as a ‘cheap, quick way to keep kids entertained and happy’.
‘They are like surrogate parents and the kids are just plonked in front of them,’ he said.