Training for parents part of Quinn plan to counter cyberbullies
PARENTS will be given training courses to help spot if their children are suffering from cyberbullying.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has accepted this key recommendation in the new national action plan on bullying, which has been given €500,000 in dedicated funding this year.
But it will be up to an implementation group to decide whether the anti-bullying courses will be provided to all parents of children in the country's 4,000 schools.
Mr Quinn said it was a sad reality that the suicides of some young people had been connected to bullying and cyberbullying. He said it was his department's intention to provide training courses to help parents who were not familiar with cyberbullying.
"They grew up at a time when mobile phones and other electronic media simply were not part of their teenage experience. Unless they are exposed to this, they won't be aware of the potential for cyberbullying that is out there," he said.
The deaths of several young people linked to cyberbullying sparked a major Irish Independent campaign in recent months.
The publication of the plan was welcomed by the father of Ciara Pugsley (15, pictured left), from Dromahair in Co Leitrm, who died by suicide last year after being bullied online.
Jonathan Pugsley said it was a very positive step that the Government realised that something had to be done.
"The longer we leave it, the more people are going to be hurt by bullying," he said.
But Mr Pugsley expressed concern that the objective in the action plan to carry out more research into bullying here could be a "stalling tactic".
"Surely have we not got enough information now to start doing things quickly?" he asked.
There will be a new national anti-bullying website, which will contain information about the controversial Ask.FM website that allows users to post comments and direct statements anonymously to other users.
It will also explain the different types of bullying, which range from violence to malicious gossip to deliberate exclusion of children from groups.
All schools will have to include new anti-bullying guidelines in their codes of practice this September. It is 20 years since they were last updated.
But the National Anti-Bullying Coalition's president Monica Monahan expressed concern about the lack of clear timelines for many measures in the action plan.
"I'd be concerned about the implementation because the Department of Education don't have the best record (on combating bullying)," she said.
The youth website Spunout.ie called for the urgent implementation of the action's plans recommendation for teachers to be properly trained to combat bullying.
monA o'moore: page 32 Editorial Comment