Sunday 22 April 2018

Children’s Ombudsman: Blocking access to websites won't stop cyber bullying

Kathryn Hayes

BLOCKING access to a website at the centre of controversy following the deaths of two teenage girls, will not end cyber bullying and could lead to similar sites being accessed, the Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan has warned.

Ms Logan made her comments in Limerick today at the launch of a report undertaken by her office on bullying in schools.

Some 300 children aged from 10 to 17 from across the country took part in the report entitled ' Dealing with Bullying in Schools: A Consultation with Children and Young people.'

The Ombudsman for Children, is calling on the Government to ensure that bullying is addressed as a public health issue rather than one confined to the sphere of education.

According to Ms Logan, cyber bullying and homophobic bullying were two of the most prevalent forms of bullying raised by those who took part in the report.

When asked if Irish children's access to should be blocked Ms Logan replied:

"I don't think blocking one website is going to stop the issue. If anything it would possibly generate even more websites if it creates the amount of attention that it's getting, and rightfully so in terms of the association with cyber bullying," she said.

It is estimated that more than 10,000 Irish schoolchildren find it difficult to go to school every day as a result of being bullied and at least 24pc of primary school children and 14pc of post primary school students have experienced bullying.

On average more than 40pc of complaints made by parents to the Office of the Children's Ombudsman relate to education and bullying is among the five issues most frequently raised.

"Two things came up very strongly from this report from children, one is Homophobic bullying, because it's difficult to deal with, and the other is cyber bullying because of the nature of cyber bullying because it's hidden because it's pervasive in children lives. It doesn't finish at the school door, it follows children home which is why it is much more intense and much more upsetting for children and young people..."Ms Logan said.

The issue of cyber bullying has made headlines in recent months following the deaths of 15-year-old Ciara Puglsey in Co Leitrim in September and 13-year-old Erin Gallagher in Co Donegal last weekend.

"Sometimes unfortunately it take the kind of trauma that we have seen over the last few weeks for us to react in terms of a public reaction to something as serious as this," Ms Logan said.

"If is blocked in Ireland then another website will develop and that's part of the problem, it's not quite as simple as blocking a website. This is a complex issue that requires a broader response than simply blocking It's everything from teaching parents to having reasonable oversight of their children's online activity to educating children," she added.

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