Most parents don't know their child is being bullied
New research has revealed that the level of bullying in Ireland is above the EU average, as the Government today launches its 'Watch Your Space' anti-cyber-bullying campaign.
A quarter of Irish nine- to 16-year-olds experienced some form of harassment, according to a new cyber-bullying report compiled by Dr Brian O'Neill and Thuy Dinh from EU Kids Online and DIT.
Yet 68pc of parents were unaware their child had been bullied online.
Simon Grehan, who organises Safer Internet Day, which is tomorrow, said the number of parents unaware their child had been subjected to some form of bullying online was higher than would be expected with "conventional bullying".
Mr Grehan, project coordinator with Webwise, said more open communication was essential as many children do not admit they are being bullied because they are afraid it might escalate the problem or they might lose their phone or internet access.
An EU-wide survey of 1,000 children and a parent of each in 25 countries found most young people – around 71pc – will turn to a friend or one of their parents.
More than half of the children bullied online were very upset, and 44pc reported a lasting effect.
Nearly a quarter of 15- to 16-year-olds also admitted bullying others.
Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn will today launch 'Watch Your Space', which is the first step in the Government's new €500,000 action plan that will include an online video targeting cyber-bullying, a website – www.watchyourspace.ie – and events in schools.
Mr Quinn said social media were fantastic tools that had "revolutionised" the process of teaching and learning, but they had an "insidious element" when used with the wrong intentions.
He urged young people to show respect to others online.
Gardai are also launching a new secondary schools programme which aims to change the attitude of bystanders and get them to intervene in online bullying.
Several deaths of young people in recent months sparked an Irish Independent campaign to combat cyber-bullying.
Donegal sisters Erin (13) and Shannon (15) Gallagher and Leitrim student Ciara Pugsley (15), pictured below, took their lives last year, amid a worrying level of deaths with links to cyber-bullying.
The world's biggest social media site, Facebook, has already vowed to show "zero-tolerance" to anyone who posts abusive content.
Prof Mona O'Moore, of the Anti-Bullying Centre at Trinity College Dublin, said greater political pressure should be directed at social media providers to put in place easier access so abusive content can be removed.
Ireland South MEP Sean Kelly plans to propose new measures at the European Parliament to tighten internet regulations and introduce stricter school intervention policies to tackle cyber-bullying.
He said cyber-bullying has become an "epidemic problem", and awareness work was needed from "the classroom to the GAA pitch to the family home".