Ef­fects of cy­ber bul­ly­ing on chil­dren dis­cussed at Wick­low JPC

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - NEWS -

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.

Sgt Fitz­patrick agreed and stressed the im­por­tance of par­ents be­ing good role mod­els re­gard­ing tech­nol­ogy and also en­cour­aged them to set ap­pro­pri­ate bound­aries in terms of use, and trans­parency of what sort of con­tent chil­dren are ac­cess­ing.

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