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Time to act on bullying before tragedy hits primary schools, says expert

Marion Flanagan has said that there needs to be an approach involving parents, schools and the children themselves to tackle bullying.

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IT IS NOT enough to say that cyber bullying is not taking place in Irish schools – and parents, teachers and pupils all need to be involved in tackling it.

That’s the view of Marion Flanagan, M Ed Aggression Studies, TCD and AntiBullying Tutor, who has warned that we need to act before tragedies hit primary schools just as they have hit secondary schools.

Proactive

Flanagan said that primary schools need to take a far more proactive role in combating
cyber bullying.

She said that children as young as first class are regularly bullied and taunted via
text, on Facebook and Moshi Monsters. She said that the pupils meting out the online abuse “often don’t realise the impact they are having or that all of their online activity leaves a fully traceable, digital fingerprint which is with them for the rest of their lives”.

“It’s not good enough anymore to say cyber bullying doesn’t happen in primary school and, therefore, schools don’t have a responsibility to tackle it,” said Flanagan. “Cyber bullying is just an extension of what can happen in the classroom or in the playground.”

Flanagan said that the impact is also potentially a lot more harmful as it can be read
over and over again by the victim.

Approach

According to Flanagan, the best way to tackle cyber bullying is via a three-pronged approach, involving parents, schools and children themselves.

She said that some schools are terrific and proactive, but others “simply stick their heads in the sand”.

It’s time for us to act collectively before the tragedies which have struck several second level schools are seen at primary level.

She made her comments as the start of a new school year beckons. Flanagan recommended that every primary school in the country invests in the resource, ‘Bullying in a Cyber World’, a new Prim-Ed Publishing publication for Irish primary schools.

As part of the initiative, pupils are urged to sign an anti-bullying pledge and learn how to cope with and report such unacceptable behaviour at school, online and in the wider community.

Prim-Ed’s MD Seamus McGuinness explained that the series “helps children develop a tolerance and appreciation and acceptance of similarities and differences in others”.

Read: Cyber-bullying should be a crime says rapporteur on child protection>

Read: 63 per cent of people think schools should ban smartphones and social networks>

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