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I'm scared my children will fall victim to net bullies -- Blathnaid

RTE presenter Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh has revealed how she worries her children may be exposed to cyber bullying.

The mum-of-four told the Herald that cyber-bullying and the threat of paedophiles makes her extremely anxious about her children's well-being.

But she also conceded parents can only do so much and society needs to to watch out for young people.

The flame-haired TV presenter (41) said the suicide of Donegal girl Erin Gallagher -- who was a victim of cyber- bullying on Ask.fm -- had raised her concern about her own children's online activity.

"I had a conversation with my son and daughter. And my son was aware of the website. And I won't lie; alarm bells went off. I was trying to be very casual about it, talking to him while we were driving. So it raised concern and I spoke to his big sister, my eldest, about it too," said the Meath native.

However the former Afternoon Show presenter said she knows teenagers are not keen on opening up to their parents -- but that extended family or teachers can play a vital role in letting them report problems.

"Not every teenager can turn to their parents, I understand that. I've always spoken to them about having another adult in their lives that they could talk to, having someone to touch base with. When you have children, everyone is involved. My sisters supervise for me which isn't as obvious. But what can you do? It doesn't take away from the fact that I'm very nervous."

The protective mum said that in her experience if an adult suspects a child is being bullied they are probably right.

But Blathnaid, who is an ambassador for children's rights charity Plan, believes that people need to look out for all children, not just their own.

The fluent Irish speaker presented RTE children's programme Echo Island during the Nineties and said the experience taught her to be more vigilant about the welfare of children. The Meath native said she believes the forthcoming Children's Referendum will ensure that children are listened to and protected.

"Let the authorities know that you're concerned. We're obliged to that. That's why the children's referendum is so important. If you see something on the street you are concerned about you are responsible for reporting it."

She said she wasn't shocked to hear the revelations about BBC presenter Jimmy Savile's abuse of children.

"Unfortunately from my own research through the years on different programmes, I found that paedophiles are cleverer than most of us. Very manipulative. They're a different type. But I was horrified and upset."

hnews@herald.ie


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