Thursday 25 August 2016

Editorial: Education is only way to combat this cyber scourge

Published 10/06/2014 | 02:30

Cyber-bullying has had some devastating consequences. Picture posed. Thinkstock Images
Cyber-bullying has had some devastating consequences. Picture posed. Thinkstock Images

Cyber-bullying is one of the scourges of our age, an insidious new crime that has arrived with the widespread use of everyday technology: iPhones, iPads, laptops and other devices. With every benefit to society, in general there inevitably comes a downside and we are quickly learning the drawbacks of these particular innovations. These are tools that most of us now find essential in our daily lives, yet they can be used to cause great harm. Without even realising it, people can, and do, inflict pain and suffering on others with the casual, almost careless press of the 'send' button.

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Cyber-bullying, particularly for children and young adults who are so wedded to this new means of mass communication, has had some devastating consequences, including death.

So it is commendable that Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte will soon present a comprehensive report on the issue to Cabinet.

Lessons aimed at cutting down on cyber-bullying are expected to be introduced in primary and secondary school curriculums, a welcome move. We already know that the failure of people to recognise the harm that they can so casually inflict on others is a major part of the problem. It is all too easy to avail of hi-tech innovations to bully or abuse others and say unpleasant things that you would not dream of saying face to face.

The report has also concluded that "criminalising cyber-bullying offences for minors is not the way to proceed". While this will undoubtedly lead to a debate, it is probably the correct way to proceed and education rather than criminal sanctions will lead to a much more fundamental shift in the attitudes of young people in the coming years. The report, which is expected to be published in the coming weeks, should be an important roadmap for the future. Parents, teachers and young people all need to be properly informed and educated about the dangers inherent in this means of mass-communication so that some of the excesses we have already seen in this area will not happen again.

Coalition must stop sending mixed messages

So all of a sudden we're not feeling so good about ourselves any more. Experts are attributing this drop in consumer confidence to the harsh messages of the election campaign and what economist Austin Hughes called "a reassessment of consumers' current circumstances". In effect what this means is that while we are being told we're better off, few ordinary people are feeling it. The see-saw debate about whether the next Budget will need another €2bn correction, or not, in the public finances has left people largely confused and unhappy.

But the one thing they are not confused about is the mixed messages coming from government. While good things are happening on the economic front and jobless numbers are falling, people are not feeling it in their pockets. "Pressure on personal finances, which has been repeatedly signalled in recent sentiment readings, may have been seen as a deeper and longer-lasting problem," added Hughes, an economist with KBC Bank, which carried out the joint survey with the ESRI. What it tells us is that consumer sentiment, which has been rising every month since November 2013, fell dramatically in May.

It should be quite clear to the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition that mixed messages do not inspire confidence.

We've had a series of them in the health area and the introduction of water charges. What the KBC/ESRI index really shows is that people are desperately seeking good news, but won't be fooled into believing that things are better until they see it in their pockets.

If the Coalition, and Labour in particular, want to stave off disaster they need to stop pedalling unrealistic expectations and sending out confusing messages to the general public.

Irish Independent

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