Make parents liable for cyberbullying, says expert

Parents should be held liable for their children’s behaviour online, the director of an anti-bullying research centre has said.

Parents are not educating their children about safe usage of the internet.

Ahead of Safer Internet Day tomorrow , the Director of the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre at Dublin City University said if parents were held legally responsible for their child’s cyberbullying, there would be greater numbers of parents familiarising themselves with the s ocial media their children are using.

Dr James O’Higgins-Norman said research shows primary school children, as young as 9 or 10, are being given smartphones as Christmas presents by parents, yet many of these parents are not educating their offspring about safe usage.

“Our advice for parents is to stay current with what apps your children are using and how they work. If you don’t, it is like a parent taking a child to a playground and then heading off to the pub themselves,” he said.

He said it is hard to give an arbitrary age at which it is acceptable for a child to be given a smartphone as it depends on the child and whether they can be trusted to act responsibly or not. He said, however, that children should not be given a phone without first having sat down with their parents to discuss ground rules.

“Consideration should be given to making parents responsible for their children’s behaviour online. What if your child is a cyber bully?” he said.

Research shows 14% of primary and 10% of post-primary school children have been cyberbullied.

The Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre recommend the ABC approach:

  • A is to avoid judgement. Make your child feel like they can talk to you if they experience a problem online, that they can talk without being punished or especially without their phone being taken away;
  • B is to be familiar with what apps they are using, where the dangers are and talk to them about this;
  • C is to demonstrate care by your behaviour online. Show them how to be somebody who cares and behaves online and teach them not to be a bystander who does nothing if they see bullying.

The National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre is undertaking an analysis of all studies on cyberbullying in Ireland from 1997 to the present. It has also produced a short video in which school children tell parents how to help them stay safe from cyberbullying. This can be viewed at www.tacklebullying.ie


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