Schools will ask parents to help them end cyber-bullying
SCHOOLS will be asking parents to play a bigger role in helping them to combat the cyber-bullying scourge.
New guidelines, soon to be issued by a second-level school management body, will encourage parents to come forward with any information they have about a bullying problem.
The new advice also suggests the appointment of senior students as "cyber mentors" to help younger pupils protect themselves online.
The Irish Vocational Education Association (IVEA), which represents the management in about one in three post-primary schools, is finalising its advice, a draft of which has been seen by the Irish Independent.
The guidelines are the latest in a series from education authorities in response to the growing cyber-bullying problem, which was linked to at least two teen suicides in Ireland last year.
The problem is not confined to young people, and internet abuse has been cited as a factor in the tragic death of Fine Gael junior minister Shane McEntee, who took his own life before Christmas.
As a result, the Government has asked the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communication to investigate cyber-bullying and draw up a report that will recommend new legislation.
The move comes as the nephew of Mr McEntee hit out over the weekend at cyber-bullying against a teenage schoolgirl. Also called Shane McEntee, he took to his social-networking page to voice his disgust at the way the youngster was being treated.
His comments came after the girl, who claims that she is the daughter of "the highest-earning partner" in a major accountancy firm, began shouting abuse at a group of diners who were taunting and filming her on their mobile phone.
The video went viral online and has resulted in a torrent of abuse against the youngster.
Mr McEntee, a talented GAA player with the Meath minor team, made a plea for people to halt the online taunts. Taking to his Twitter page, he said: "Surely people have the cop-on at this stage, after all the recent tragedies, not to go to town on the girl."
Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire TD and former headmistress Mary Mitchell O'Connor also joined the debate on cyber-bullying – calling for an all-party approach to tackle "the destructive potential of social media".
Cyber-bullying is bullying by electronic means, and usually occurs through social-media websites, text/picture messaging, chatrooms, gaming sites and email.
The IVEA document covers a range of issues including the definitions of cyber-bullying, school policies, safe internet use and teacher training.
The IVEA document notes that schools that have been successful in combatting bullying invariably work collaboratively with parents and guardians.
The IVEA guidelines go on to state that meetings with parents should not be confined to providing information and that parents should be invited to give their perspective on bullying in the school.
Additionally, the IVEA is advising schools that parents with information should provide it directly to a staff member, ideally the principal or deputy principal, in private.
The aim would be not to punish the pupil or pupils concerned but to identify any problems and work at resolving the matter.