Cyber-bullying victim’s dad warns parents of dangers

They were both 15, both attractive, vivacious girls, full of life — until they were bullied to death.

The all too short lives of Ciara Pugsley and Phoebe Prince serve as a chilling reminder of what bullying can lead to, as their grieving fathers, Jeremy Prince and Jonathan Pugsley, outlined yesterday after a briefing on the issue by the National Anti-Bullying Coalition.

Jeremy Prince, father of Phoebe Prince and Jonathan Pugsley, father of Ciara Pugsley, were attending the National Anti-Bullying Coalition’s briefing on its anti-bullying programme, “Our Kids”, at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin.

Jonathan’s daughter Ciara was an outgoing, bubbly girl. Living in Dromahair, Co Leitrim, she loved her horses, karate, football and anything that involved sport. She had just started learning to water-ski.

On September 19 last, Ciara went to school as normal. But that evening, without any warning, she took her own life. “There was no indications that anything was wrong at all,” recalled Jonathan.

After desperately searching for answers, the family discovered that she was being bullied online via the website Ask.fm, which is based in Latvia.

“She was being taunted about a number of things. They were saying she was ugly, she was fat,” her father explained. “A lot of it is obviously blatantly untrue but I think when you are a young teenager you take some of these things to heart.”

He is convinced that parents don’t understand the dangers their children are being regularly exposed to on the internet.

Also at the briefing was Jeremy Prince whose daughter Phoebe committed suicide after months of torment at a Massachusetts high school.

Phoebe hanged herself at the beginning of 2010 after she was harassed by older girls at South Hadley High School. Her younger sister found her body in the family’s second-story apartment. They had moved from Ireland just a year before.

“The whole culture was wrong at that school. The school turned a blind eye,” Jeremy Prince said.

- Younger children are being targeted by cyber bullies, according to psychologist Dr Stephen James Minton.

He will give a free talk on the subject at Oriel House in Ballincollig, Cork, on Tuesday next at 8pm. Admission is free to all parents of primary school children and no advanced booking is required. Dr Minton works in the anti-bullying research centre in Trinity College Dublin and has written extensively on the subjects of bullying and cyber-bullying.

Picture: Jonathan Pugsley, whose daughter Ciara took her own life last September. It wasn’t until afterwards he realised she was being bulled online. Picture: Gareth Chaney, Collins

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