Coherent cross Departmental approach must be adopted in the fight against cyber bullying

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Wednesday) called for a cross Departmental approach to raise awareness among parents, teachers and children of how best to deal with cyber bullying. Deputy Mitchell O’Connor was speaking following responses she received to PQs from the Departments of Communications, Education and Justice about the possibility of banning harmful websites such as as we remember the anniversaries of the deaths of a number of young girls who died by suicide around this time last year.

“There is no doubt that ensuring that the law keeps up with advances in technology remains a challenge; a fact that was relayed to me by the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter TD, who said that in the fight to protect children and vulnerable persons from damaging content online, we must recognise that the internet’s global reach can make taking action against offending or offensive websites almost impossible.

“There are a number of measures and initiatives in place, such as the Department of Education’s 12 step Action Plan on Bullying; Safer Internet Day 2013, an initiative on cyber bullying targeted specifically at young people which will be repeated in 2014; and the establishment of the Office for Internet Safety, which also aims to build links between all Government Departments and Agencies, while working towards the promotion of internet safety at the highest level.

“However, in many circles, it is believed that raising awareness and increasing vigilance among adults is the way forward in stamping out this harmful practice. Encouraging parents to find out about filtering what their children can access can be of benefit, however, with the increasing number of children who have access to mobile phones this is not a fool-proof approach either.

“The special rapporteur on child protection, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, said yesterday that the time is ripe for robust legislation to combat cyber bullying. Minister Shatter has said that in the instances where it may be necessary to invoke the criminal law in cyberbullying cases, this can only happen when victims come forward to build a case. Dr. Shannon has called for a clear system of legal recourse to be provided for an offence of cyber-bullying and to encourage victims to come forward in a bid to address the issue.

“Cyberbullying is the practice of cowards as its anonymity gives them a shield behind which they can hurl abuse. Sadly, many of our children do not understand this and are severely impacted by the torment inflected at the hands of their abusers.

“I recognise the efforts being made to deal with this issue but we must keep the foot on the pedal in terms of educating our teachers and parents about cyberbullying, raising awareness about the damage it does and continue to support parents in monitoring and guiding their children about how best to deal with cyber bullies.”


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