Ten-year-old children are inadvertently engaging in cyberbullying, a community garda has warned.
Garda Deirdre Scanlon, who is based in Ennistymon, Co Clare, has also warned that there are 11- and 12-year-olds with Facebook pages who are befriending people online that they don’t know and who could prove to be sex predators.
Having delivered a series of cyberbullying talks to primary and secondary schools over the last two-and-a-half years, she believes the increased availability of different forms of information technology has facilitated an increase in cyberbullying by children and teenagers.
“Children and teenagers put up a comment and they have no idea it is up there forever. I tell them if you are putting something on the internet you should be prepared to see it in on the front page of the local newspaper next week.
“It seems every comment has to be worse than the next. It can be a case of bitchiness with the girls who tend to be worse than fellas. Fellas don’t seem get as involved as much, but girls can get involved in groups.
“I tell children if you met a complete stranger going down the street in Ennistymon today would you tell him where you lived, would you tell him where your mother and father worked, would you tell him what you had for your dinner.
“They all say ‘no’. But yet they have no problem putting all this up on a computer,” she says.
She describes cyberbullying as being threatened, harassed, humiliated and embarrassed through social media.
She tells primary school children that their friends are the people they sit with at school, play hurling with and socialise with, and they shouldn’t engage in trying to get as many online “friends” as their classmates.
Explaining what anonymous really means, she outlines that primary school children think they are befriending an 11- or 12-year-old from a neighbouring school.
However, it is possible this ‘friend’ could prove to be a sexual predator.
She believes public awareness and more parental responsibility will help reduce the incidence of cyberbullying.
Deirdre O’Doherty, a community garda based in a Co Clare town said that most teenagers aren’t surprised by the amount of cyberbullying. “They all know it is going on. They know someone who is involved in cyberbullying or who has been a victim of cyberbullying. Since the talks, they have a greater understanding what cyberbullying actually is,” she added.
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