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Primary school kids MUST be taught the dangers of cyber-bullying, Govt advised

However, the Government body set up to advise the Cabinet on the issue says that criminalising minors for cyber-bullying offences is NOT the way forward.

Image: Shutterstock via Shutterstock

Updated at 7.49pm

A GOVERNMENT BODY set-up to set up to look at issues relating to the internet – including online bullying – has handed in its report to Cabinet.

It makes a range of recommendations relating to measures to deal with cyber-bullying, and places a focus on educational initiatives rather than legislation changes.

Amongst its recommendations, the Internet Content Governance Advisory Group suggests that internet safety and digital literacy skills should be a “core element” of the curriculum in the country’s primary and secondary schools. It says an inter-agency group should be set up by the Department of Education to decide how this should be rolled out.

Additionally, the Group recommends that parents be given further training to make them aware of the risks of cyber-bullying and how to deal with them…

“Training initiatives such as those developed by the National Parent’s Council should be expanded and further resourced,” the report says.

The Group also says that two existing Garda schools programmes which deal with online bullying should be extended to include equivalent resources for parents.

The only significant legislative change suggested by the group is the amendment of the 2007 ‘Communications Regulation Act’ to include ‘electronic communications’ within the definition of measures dealing with ‘the sending of messages which are grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing’.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said the change was “not a major matter, but a sensible matter that we ought to do to ensure that electronic communications are captured”.

It’s a clarificatory statement rather than a major change in the law. But yes, I am committed to it.

The Group says it does NOT believe that criminalising cyber-bullying offences for minors is the way to proceed.

ISPs

Along with the range of educational measures, the new report recommends that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and mobile operators be encouraged to include parental controls and services as part of their products.

Rabbitte said he wanted to tackle the issue “on a collaborative basis with the industry”.

The industry doesn’t have any interest in abuse or misuse of technology. I think it would be difficult for Government to take measures without the cooperation of the industry.

The proposals were discussed at Cabinet this morning, and a group that includes officials from the Departments of Children, Education, Justice and Health was set up to implement the measures. It’s expected to have its work concluded within four months.

Chaired by Dr Brian O’Neill of DIT’s School of Media, the six member ICGA Group was set up in December of last year, and held its first meeting in January before opening a public consultation process.

Reacting to the publication of the report this evening, the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals said it was “particularly pleased” that problems relating to cyber-bullying were being acknowledged.

“The NAPD conducted its second national survey on cyber-bullying last February that showed an increase in people reporting to have been victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying,” Director of the NAPD Clive Byrne said.

“It is clear that a thorough examination on the oversight of online content is long overdue and the publication of this document is a welcome first step.”

First posted at 4.40pm.

Read: Ireland ‘should consider laws that would jail cyber bullies’ >

Read: One in seven children subjected to cyber bullying in last three months >

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