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New campaigns against cyber bullying launched

Teen-led campaign Watch Your Space and the Garda programme Connect with Respect were launched by Minister Ruairí Quinn and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan this morning.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Etobm4hnwcQ

(YouTube: WatchYourpace)

LAUNCHING TWO INITIATIVES aimed at tackling cyberbullying today, Education Minister Ruairí Quinn noted that new technologies bring with them both opportunities and dangers.

“The opportunities should be celebrated and the dangers should be put out there,” he told reporters.

The projects being launched, including the Watch your Space public awareness cyber-bullying campaign and the Garda Primary Schools Programme module Connect with Respect, have been in the pipeline for some time but “some of it is reacting to tragedies and fatalities in various parts of the country”.

“The level of awareness now of the phenomenon of bullying, of the incidence of bullying, of the 24/7 dimension it has now taken on, is much higher than ever before.”

Quinn also mentioned the increased awareness and new guidelines around homophobic bullying.

Commissioner Martin Callinan said the Gardaí wanted to get involved with the campaign, launched to coincide with Safer Internet Day, to create a safer space for students.

“Children and young people are some of our most valuable commodities. We must ensure that as a community-based police force, we serve all strata of society. Children and young people are extremely vulnerable and it is important we keep them at the centre of everything we do.”

Callinan and Quinn at today’s event in Dublin (Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland)

The Watch Your Space anti cyber-bullying campaign includes online content, school-based events and media elements. Its website has information and advice for secondary school students on coping with online situations and facilitating positive intervention by witnesses.

The newly-introduced primary school module, to be given by Gardaí, hopes to change the attitude of bystanders online. They want to make them more likely to intervene positively and effectively in online bullying situations.

It also aims to help students to understand the impact that cyber bullying can have on different people, and to recognise that it is not acceptable.

A recent study showed the most commonly reported form of cyber bullying is being the target of nasty or hurtful messages.

Callinan had this message:

It is important to stand up to bullying, whether it’s online or in the real world, in a safe and effective way. Directly confronting someone who is being aggressive or hurtful is not always the best way to go about it. You can reoprt online bullying to the website, reach out to support the victim, and tell an adult you trust.

This year there is a budget of €500,000 to implement the Government’s Action Plan on Bullying.

The recent suicides of a number of teenage girls has sparked concern from parents and the wider community about the dangers of the Internet, specifically social websites popular with teens, including ask.fm.

Matthew from Watch This Space told TheJournal.ie that the attraction to such sites is not always clear to adults.

“There is a weird interest in what people think,” he explained. “People don’t necessarily trust their friends enough that they are telling the truth. So they set up an ask.fm account to see what people really think about them. It is a weird desire, mostly among younger teenagers.”

Another teen from the group, Grace, adds that she doesn’t really understand the draw either.

“I came through a generation of Spill It, a former version of ask.fm, so I know that those things aren’t worth it.”

Spill It was popular among teens a few years ago. It’s tagline reads: “What do they like about you? Let your friends and family spill it.”

Facts and figures

A study, conducted by Dr Brian O’Neill and Thuy Dinh from EU Kids Online and DIT and published today, found almost seven in 10 parents were unaware that their child had been bullied online.

The report also found:

  • More than half of children bullied online said they were ‘upset’ or ‘fairly upset’ by it
  • Online bullying had a lasting effect on 44 per cent of bullied children
  • 14 per cent said they were ‘deeply affected’ for a couple of months or more – a stat much higher than the European average of 2 per cent
  • A quarter of nine to 16 year olds have been bullied – either online or offline
  • 28 per cent of victims tried to fix the problem themselves.
  • 25 per cent of victims hoped the problem would just go away
  • The most technical response to cyber bullying is to block the person
  • Only 15 per cent reported the bullying using an online reporting tool
  • Only 29 per cent of parents of bullied children were aware of the bullying
  • Almost three-quarters of young people who have been bullied talk to someone about it – usually a parent or friend but rarely (6 per cent) a teacher

Read: Number of primary school children with depression rises

MORE: National guidelines on mental health in secondary schools published

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