Saturday 18 November 2017

Her mum's story: 'My little girl was so sad – it just broke my heart'

Happy family: Sinéad Doyle with her parents Sue and Ger
Happy family: Sinéad Doyle with her parents Sue and Ger

Celine Naughton

Sue Doyle was devastated when she realised her only daughter Sinéad had been the victim of bullying at the age of seven.

Now, both consider themselves fortunate it happened before she reached her teens, when the scourge of cyberbullying can bring vulnerable young people to the point of utter despair. This is Sue's story:

"I knew there was something wrong. Over the course of a few weeks, Sinéad's demeanour had changed. She went from her usual bubbly self, full of chat, rushing in from school with her long plaits and lively stories to a much quieter seven-year-old who would come through the door with a solemn expression on her little face and plonk herself in front of the TV. She just looked so sad.

"I guessed what might be making her so unhappy, but I had to coax it out of her. I didn't want to ask her straight out, 'Are you being bullied?' in case she said 'No' and that would be the end of the conversation. I wanted her to tell me.

"It took a week of persuasion before she opened up and told me all about it and I can tell you, it broke my heart. As I tried to sleep that night, I had a horrible, sinking feeling as I thought of all the nights she must have lain in bed with this great big worry on her little shoulders.

"I don't know why she didn't confide in me earlier. Perhaps she didn't want to upset me or her father, or maybe because Sinéad loves her home, she didn't want to bring this experience into her safe haven. If I could have taken the bullying for her I would.

"I spoke to her teacher who informed the principal, but the bullying didn't stop. At the end of the summer break that year, Sinéad said she didn't want to go back there, and we were fortunate to get her a place in another school.

"She has a great group of friends now and she's very happy. I'm so proud of her and, like Sinéad, I feel fortunate that this horrid experience happened before she hit her teens.

"You have only to read the papers to see how pervasive bullying has become. The advent of social media has made it worse than ever.

"Online trolls are vicious and relentless, and we have only to look at the number of teenagers who have taken their own lives following bouts of cyberbullying to realise just how dangerous it is.

"Sinéad doesn't 'do' social media, partly because she finds the notion of having hundreds or thousands of so-called friends or followers faintly ridiculous, but also because she feels such exposure makes you an easy target for bullies.

"It was a learning experience and not one that any parent wants their child to go through, but given the choice between it happening then and now, then I guess we're lucky."

Irish Independent

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