Wednesday 21 February 2018

Video: Most parents at a loss to prevent cyber bullying, claims IT expert

Greg Harkin

CYBER bullying is the number one threat to children's safety and most parents do not know how to prevent it, an expert has warned.

Niall Mulrine was speaking following the death of 15-year-old Ciara Pugsley in Co Leitrim 10 days ago.

Gardai are investigating claims she was being bullied on a website.

Mr Mulrine has put together a programme aimed at educating teenagers and parents on the dangers of the internet.

He said he feared more teenagers will be driven to suicide unless schools and parents "skill up" on how to deal with the issue.

Ms Pugsley, who was from Dromahair and a popular student at St Clare's Comprehensive, was a keen member of equestrian and sub-aqua clubs.

She was also a talented gaelic footballer, representing her county at under-14 level.

Mr Mulrine, a father-of-two, said he had decided to pioneer his education programme because parents had asked for it.

"I run an IT business and through that I was constantly being asked by parents and schools for my advice on how to deal with online bullying," the Donegal man said.

"It was clear to me that many parents just don't have a clue and shudder at the very mention of the word Facebook but it's important that they do.

"We were all taught how to ride a bike, drive a car, climb a tree or play a sport, but no one really shows us ever how to use the internet.

"Cyber bullies represent the single biggest threat to our children in this country. I go into schools and give advice to pupils and teachers (and) I also sit down with parents to help them stay ahead of the technology in a simple and easy fashion."

The Ballybofey-based IT expert, who has visited most secondary schools in Co Donegal, said parents do not realise the far-reaching implications of cyber bullying.

"I was bullied myself at school, but when that happened I knew it was over at 3pm. Nowadays online bullying is literally 24/7," he warned.

"Recent research in England showed 48pc of teenagers checked their Facebook status before they even had breakfast and with smartphones, it's much easier to do that."

Meanwhile, more than 50,000 people have viewed an online tribute to Ciara on YouTube, with a similar number liking Facebook tribute pages.

However, internet trolls have also attacked those sites, several leaving vile messages.

"It's very sad," said Mr Mulrine. "I know such pages can give enormous comfort to grieving families but unfortunately you will get trolls so I would personally not recommend tribute pages online."

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Irish Independent

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