PROVIDERS of websites linked to cyber-bullying suicides could be made criminally responsible if they ignore new safety guidelines, under proposals being brought to the European Parliament.
MEP Sean Kelly is to bring forward measures to tighten internet regulations and school intervention policies amid fears cyber-bullying across Europe is running at epidemic levels.
The proposals will would see enhanced co-operation between EU member states given that cyber-bullying is seen as a cross-border issue.
Details of the move by the Ireland South MEP emerged ahead of a major cyber-bullying conference in Cork today, being attended by over 500 teachers, parents, community workers and social workers.
Mr Kelly hopes that new regulations could be in force by 2015.
The conference takes place after the cyber-bullying-related deaths of three teenagers in Co Donegal and Co Leitrim.
The deaths of Donegal teen Erin Gallagher (13) and Leitrim teen Ciara Pugsley (15) were both linked to bullying on the ask.fm social media website.
Mr Kelly pointed out that this site, based in Riga in Latvia, highlighted the need for greater cross-border controls.
"As co-author of the most fundamental reform of EU and global data protection rules in 20 years. I hope to focus on tighter regulation of such websites to prevent such tragedies happening in the future," he said.
Mr Kelly warned that Irish and European society had fallen behind on the 'learning curve' when it came to monitoring and controlling the technological advances of social media websites.
He said the priority for legislators and educators should be the protection of vulnerable youngsters.
Mr Kelly stressed the need for urgent action was borne out by an NUI Maynooth psychology department study which revealed that 20pc-plus of students had experienced cyberbullying in some form.
The EU move is set to be mirrored by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn who will publish new anti-cyberbullying policies.