CYBER-bullying is on the rise with one in 10 Irish students now admitting that they have suffered online harassment.
The spread of social networking has led to significant numbers of teenagers being targeted by their peers over the internet.
A new study – conducted across several Irish schools – alarmingly found that almost half the students questioned had witnessed or heard of cyber-bullying taking place.
That is despite the publicity generated by the tragic stories of Cork schoolgirl Leanne Wolfe (18) and Clare teen Phoebe Prince.
Leanne took her own life in 2007 after being subjected to years of bullying, including abuse over her mobile phone.
Phoebe (15) hanged herself in January 2010 in Massachusetts in the US after she was targeted for bullying, including vicious social network comments.
Since then, a high-profile Irish Society for the Protection of Children (ISPCC) anti-bullying campaign has been endorsed by Jedward, Saoirse Ronan, Louis Walsh and Laura Whitmore.
The study was conducted by Cork Institute of Technology student Shane Kearney.
He found that it was crucial for schools to have clear anti-bullying policies – and that parents monitor their children's mobile phones as much as their internet usage.
“It is imperative that parents become knowledgeable, keep up-to-date and fully informed so they know what their children might be experiencing and act in a timely and effective fashion to protect and defend them,” he said.
The study found:
One in 10 students had experienced cyber-bullying.
Only one in six children said their parents checked their mobile phones.
One in five children said they had experienced traditional forms of bullying.
A third of students said they found picture messaging via mobile phones as the most harmful and upsetting form of cyber-bullying.
Three-quarters of those who admitted to having been cyber-bullied were users of social networking sites. While cyber-bullying is only half as prevalent as traditional forms of bullying (9.8pc to 21.6pc), it can have a highly damaging impact.
The stubbornly high level of bullying still experienced by Irish teens has proved deeply upsetting for families like the Wolfes.
Their daughter, Leanne, hid the extent of her bullying until she couldn't take any more and took her own life in April 2007.
Leanne's parents, Collette and Anthony, have since campaigned tirelessly for greater awareness of the effects of bullying.
The couple helped launch a special anti-bullying campaign with TV3's Ireland AM earlier this year – and urged parents to talk to their children about such issues.