SCHOOL bullies are stealing their peers' online identities to isolate them, it has emerged.
Children from the age of eight are accessing the internet via their mobile phones, and are likely to discriminate against those who do not have such devices.
The Buzzworks Theatre Company, a drama group which conducts anti-bullying workshops in schools all over the country, has warned that children and teens are increasingly using Facebook to bully classmates.
One particular worrying trend is the growing number of youngsters who create fake Facebook pages, in their peers' names, only to insult the rest of their classmates while pretending to be someone else.
Not only are children who do not have access to the internet and social network sites alienated, this type of behaviour also turns the rest of the class against the children whose online identity was stolen.
"We've been going to primary and secondary schools all over Ireland for the past two years to offer an anti-bullying workshop and we've increasingly seen children use Facebook to bully their classmates," Buzzworks' Roisin Walsh told the Herald.
"There are five of us in the group and we have been bullied so we knew exactly what to expect and how to represent it. We never had Facebook when we were growing up, so this is particularly shocking for us.
"We've met eight-year-old children who openly admit to you they have iPhones, that they go on Facebook and get slagged over their profile pictures."
She added: "It's far from a joke to them, although bullies tend to say that it's only a bit of a laugh.
"Some children get hate pages made about them, they're usually the children who can't go online themselves, so they can't report it.
"Another common example of bullying is the number of children who create pages with their classmate's name and use that to slag others.
"It can be about anything, from their appearance, to their grades, who they hang out with."
Dublin native Roisin (24) said that parents were often oblivious to what was going on, especially because cyberbullying is more difficult to detect.
However, she explained that it was obvious, when the children were asked to do drama, which ones were regular bullies and which were regularly bullied.