Safety campaign aims to ‘wipe out’ online bullying

The Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, has launched a new campaign to “wipe out” online bullying of young people.

The effort comes as a survey shows more than half of all parents regularly checked what their child was doing online.

Mr Callinan was speaking at the launch of the new Garda online strategy, which forms part of the Garda primary schools programme, and the launch of Webwise primary school programme, both to mark Safer Internet Day.

The Garda chief urged young people to turn to someone they could trust if they were being bullied.

“My advice is, if there is a disturbing message that they would keep it and show it to somebody so we can take action through the service providers or indeed ourselves to stop it.”

He said society expected people to behave in a certain way face-to-face, but added: “You don’t always have that in terms of the internet and people hide behind computers and mobile phones.

“It’s just to wipe that out, create the space really for young people that they can feel safe and don’t feel intimidated by bullying or people that are harassing them or other inappropriate behaviour.”

He said bullying could have “very serious consequences” for the health and well being of the victim if it was not addressed.

“Bullying through the use of texting, email, Facebook, etc presents a new challenge because it can be relentless, and a young person may find no place to escape this unacceptable behaviour.

“There are some wonderfully positive things in there [the internet], it is a fountain of knowledge and a source of great research opportunities for youngsters.

“Equally so, there are huge dangers attached to it, because people can hide behind anonymity, they can create false images, false profile of themselves, so it’s important people are aware of that, they be careful of their own personal messages.”

A survey conducted by the National Parents Council Primary and the National Centre for Technology in Education found that 59% of parents were concerned about their child being bullied online.

The body launched its Webwise programme in conjunction with the Stay Safe programme.

Meanwhile, a computer security company, Trend Micro, also launched its programme on internet safety yesterday. It said its research showed half of those surveyed never reviewed their privacy settings on social networks and that 12% of children accepted any friend request they received on Facebook.

* See webswise.ie or facebook.com/webwise

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