Schools should ban smart phones and social networks, with most adults regarding cyberbullying as a significant threat to the mental health of children.
A national survey found more than 60% of adults supported the ban, with the majority calling on schools to introduce guidelines to tackle the growing problem of online abuse.
Support for the ban is unsurprising in light of the results of a recent international survey, which found that incidences of cyberbullying among teenagers in Ireland are among the highest in Europe.
The latest survey found most people believe responsibility for tackling the problem lies with parents and schools.
However, the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, which commissioned the survey, believes social networks need to play a greater role, particularly in removing offensive posts.
“Principals tell me that social networks either do not respond or are slow to react to their requests to take down abusive posts about a student in their care,” said NAPD director Clive Byrne. “The social networks ought to have a dedicated liaison officer whose job it is to take calls from schools and parents and act promptly in deleting offensive posts.”
Four out of five adults see cyberbullying as posing the same level of threat to a child’s mental wellbeing as more traditional forms of bullying, the survey by Amárach Research found.
Despite these findings, less than half (49%) of those surveyed believe parents should curb their child’s internet activity.
Jackie O’Callaghan, spokesperson for the National Parents Council (Post-Primary), said parents who allowed children under the age of 13 on social network sites were doing their child “no favours”.
“Many do not realise the implications. There is a huge need for parents to be more aware of the implications of cyberbullying,” Ms O’Callaghan said.
She said social networks had a “moral and ethical” obligation to play a greater role in preventing cyberbullying. Up to 18% of parents belive their child has been cyberbullied.
Mr Byrne said people had to be aware cyberbullying “does not stop at the school gate” and can be carried out on smart phones, email, instant messaging, chatrooms, blogs, bulletin boards and social networks.
“Educators and parents have a shared responsibility to empower children to embrace technology while at the same time warn them about cyber risk, particularly after recent high profile cases of cyberbullying,” said Mr Byrne.
Last year, two girls, Erin Gallagher, 13, from Co Donegal, and Ciara Pugsley, 15, from Co Leitrim, took their own lives. Both had been the victims of online bullying.
It was reported yesterday that Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte intends to legislate for the regulation of social media to prevent the sending of menacing messages.
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