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Saturday 20 January 2018

One-in-10 teens are victims of internet bullying

Ralph Riegel

CYBER-bullying has emerged as a major threat to teenagers with a new study revealing that one-in-10 Irish students admitted to having been targeted.

The study -- conducted across several Irish schools -- found that almost half of the students questioned had witnessed or heard of cyber-bullying taking place.

That is despite the publicity generated by the tragic stories of Cork schoolgirl Leanne Wolfe (18) and Clare teen Phoebe Prince (15).

Leanne Wolfe took her own life in 2007 after being subjected to years of vicious bullying -- including vile abuse over her mobile phone.

Phoebe Prince (15) hanged herself in January 2010 in South Hadley, Massachusetts, in the US, after she was bullied by fellow classmates, who posted vicious comments on social network sites.

Since then, a high-profile Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) anti-bullying campaign has been endorsed by Jedward, Saoirse Ronan, Louis Walsh and Laura Whitmore.

The new study was conducted by Cork Institute of Technology MBS student Shane Kearney, who is an official with Quinn Healthcare.

He said it was crucial schools had clear anti-bullying policies -- and that parents monitored their children's mobile phones as much as their internet usage.

"It is imperative from a monitoring perspective that parents become knowledgeable, and keep up-to-date and fully informed so they know what their children might be experiencing and act in a timely and effective fashion to protect and defend (them)," he added.

The study found:

•One-in-10 students had experienced cyber-bullying.

•Only one-in-six children said their parents checked their mobile phones.

•One-in-five children said they had experienced traditional forms of bullying.

•A third of students (33.9pc) said they found picture messaging via mobile phones as the most harmful and upsetting form of cyber-bullying.

•Three-quarters of those who admitted to having been cyber-bullied were users of social networking sites.

While cyber-bullying is only half as prevalent as traditional forms of bullying (9.8pc to 21.6pc), it has caused mounting concern because of its highly damaging impact. Bullying conducted via mobile phone picture messaging was considered by students questioned to have a particularly damaging impact on victims.

The high level of bullying still experienced by Irish teens has proved deeply upsetting for families like the Wolfes who have fought for greater awareness of the problem.

Their daughter, Leanne, hid the extent of her bullying until she couldn't take any more and took her own life in April 2007.

Leanne's parents, Collette and Anthony, have since campaigned tirelessly for greater awareness of the damage caused by bullying -- and want special anti-bullying laws introduced in Ireland.

The couple helped launch a special anti-bullying campaign with TV3's 'Ireland AM' earlier this year and urged parents to talk to their children about such issues.

Irish Independent

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