'New laws needed to combat cyberbully threat'
A stark rise in cyberbullying has led to calls for a radical overhaul of legislation to deal with the problem.
A recent survey by the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals found incidences of cyberbullying had increased by a third from last year. Up to 14pc of students who took part in the recent first national study into bullying have admitted they have been cyberbullied.
Researchers from the Anti- Bullying Centre at Dublin City University (DCU) have found that another 8pc admitted to cyberbullying others. A further 39pc of girls and 30pc of boys reported that they had witnessed someone being cyberbullied.
The study involved a group of 2,700 students, aged from between 12 and 16, in eight post-primary schools late last year.
David Fagan, a solicitor and health and safety law expert, said he believed it would take a "horrific case" of bulling or cyberbullying before the State would implement new legislation around the issue.
"There is no specific legislation here which deals with this issue.
"Bullying and cyberbullying need to be defined and penalties around such need to urgently be introduced here," said Mr Fagan.
"Even schools and teachers don't seem to realise how they could not be covered by appropriate legislation when it comes to dealing with this issue. We are way behind other countries when it comes to this worrying issue."
Mr Fagan was speaking ahead of the first-ever national conference on cyberbullying, which is being held at Dublin Castle on Monday by the Bully4U organisation and the Anti Bullying Centre at DCU.
The conference aims at educating and empowering parents, teachers and health professionals in providing support to victims and developing cyberbullying prevention and intervention strategies.
There will be an international line-up including spokespeople from Facebook, Twitter and controversial site Ask.FM.
Jim Harding, founder of Bully4U, a group which visits Irish schools to provide training on the issue, added: "Identifying threats and trends around cyberbullying is so important. We need to equip professionals at the coal face to understand and manage this cyberbullying epidemic in our schools, and clubs.
"Specific recommendations to policy and decision makers at EU and government level have to happen now."