Cyberbullying 'at risk of spiralling out of control' with 33pc rise in one year
A radical overhaul of legislation around cyberbullying is needed to prevent it spiralling out of control, a leading law expert has claimed.
A recent survey by the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals found 16pc of Irish students have experienced bullying online - which is a 33pc increase on last year.
Researchers from the Anti- Bullying Centre at DCU have found that another 8pc admitted to cyberbullying others.
The study was carried out on a group of 2,700 students aged from between 12 and 16 in eight post primary schools late last year.
A further 39pc of girls and 30pc of boys reported that they had witnessed someone being cyberbullied.Phoebe Prince suicide: Loss will never ease says dad
Incidence of school bullying was brought into focus when Irish student Phoebe Prince took her own life in America after bullying by other students.
David Fagan, a health and safety law expert believes it will take a "horrific case" of bulling or cyberbullying before the Irish State will 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," Mr Fagan said.
"There is all sorts of legislation here, such as the Children's Act and Education Act, but the State doesn't recognise bullying as a concept. Here, you have to bring a personal injury case against someone which doesn't specify bullying.
"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. There was one case here which was brought under the Post Office Amendment Act of 1951 around one site and the use of a telephone.
"But that legislation is so old. It is nuts that we are using archaic law. The law around this issue is based in the Stone Age and has not kept apace."
Mr Fagan was speaking ahead of the first national conference on cyberbullying, which is being held at Dublin Castle on Monday by the Bully4U organisation and the Anti-Bullying Centre at Dublin City University.
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 international speakers attending, including spokespeople from Facebook, Twitter and ASK.FM.
Jim Harding, the founder of Bully4U which visits schools nationwide to provide training on the issue to schools, added: "Identifying threats and trends around cyberbullying is so important.
"We need to equip professionals at the coalface to 'understand and manage this cyberbullying epidemic in our schools, clubs and digital playgrounds."