Sunday 20 April 2014

Bullying an issue 'for schools, not laws'

School Locker
School Locker

THE Data Protection Commissioner has said that cyber- bullying can't be dealt with through data protection laws, but must be tackled by schools.

Billy Hawkes outlined how proposed new European laws will increase protection for children online at the launch of a Children's Rights Alliance (CRA) 'Guide to Children's EU Rights in Ireland'.

However, he warned that the laws would not eliminate cyber-bullying.

The issue has come to the fore due to a number of cases where teenagers have died by suicide after being bullied online.

In his address to the CRA seminar, Mr Hawkes outlined how the significance of the new laws proposed by the EU Commission "is the explicit recognition of the need to give special attention to the data protection rights of children".


However, he said "data protection is not the solution to bullying", adding: "Essentially, bullying online is another version of bullying that happens in the playground and I'm afraid the only measures available there are education."

He said the issue of bullies using anonymous profiles on social networks was of particular concern in Ireland.

Another speaker, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, the Government's special rapporteur for child protection, said that he highlighted cyber-bullying as "a key issue" in his annual report.

Dr Shannon said it is a "question of the law keeping pace with technology" in terms of legal means to prosecute cases of cyber-bullying.

He agreed with Mr Hawkes, saying: "I think the law is only one part of it. You need a whole school approach (to bullying)."

According to Mr Hawkes, the proposed EU laws would mean the personal data of a child under 13 could not be processed without the consent of a parent or guardian.

He said online companies would have to take reasonable steps to verify such consent.

CAPTION: Billy Hawkes: education best way to stop cyber-bullying

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