Further to my post on fighting anonymity with anonymity: open justice and cyberbullying and the tragedies of Amanda Todd, Ciara Pugsley, and Erin Gallagher, RTÉ news reports that a national youth organisation, SpunOut.ie, has issued guidelines on how to combat cyber and text-bullying:
If you are experiencing this form of bullying, it’s vital you don’t suffer in silence. Also, if you have witnessed cyberbullying, it’s important that you take action and address the problem.
Read the Office for Internet Safety’s Guide to cyberbullying, which includes information on when and how to contact service providers if you are being cyberbullied.
Two key pieces of advice from the SpunOut.ie page:
- Don’t reply to the messages, but don’t delete them either: save them as proof.
- Don’t stay quiet about the bullying: tell someone you can trust and who can help you and give you support.
Update (31 October 2012): Damien Mulley has some very interesting statistics about Irish teens online. For example, more than 400,000 teens in Ireland are on Facebook, and three-quarters of them access it via mobile devices. This is unsurprising: in the US, more than 90% of teens go online regularly, and danah boyd is a pioneering researcher in the consequently complicated social lives of networked teens. This ubiquitous connectedness poses challenges in encouraging teens’ responsible use of social media, and on this point, Ian Power, communications officer at SpunOut.ie, has two great pieces in today’s media. First, from today’s Examiner:
Banning young people from using social media websites will not solve cyberbullying. Instead, teenagers need to be taught how to behave responsibly online, … Comprehensive regulation of social media has become almost impossible, not least owing to the difficulties in identifying users, especially those living overseas. Instead we must teach young people how to use the power of the internet for good and know when to report inappropriate or harmful online behaviour. … it’s important to ensure that young people know how to stay safe online by:
Second, from theJournal.ie, another take on the same theme:
We teach kids how to behave appropriately in real-life – and we need to do the same when our children log on … We as a society need to acknowledge and be open about the risks faced by young people online but by no means should we encourage children to be afraid of the internet. If we teach our young people the difference between good and bad online behaviour then there is no reason why they can’t become confident and responsible web users. We also need to show our young people where to go for help if they do become concerned about another user’s behaviour. … If parents would like more information on what they can do they can check out Webwise, Office for Internet Safety, or SpunOut’s section on Internet safety and cyber and text bullying.
… According to a recent report by EU Kids Online, 6 per cent of 9- to 16-year-old internet users report having been bullied online, and 3 per cent confess to having bullied others. …
Given that children are going online at ever younger ages and internet use is becoming increasingly more privatised, it is crucial that children are empowered, through education, to self-govern – to use online technologies in a safe and responsible manner. The emphasis must be placed on empowerment and responsible participation rather than on restriction or prohibition. … The problem is not the sites themselves but the way in which they are misused. Children must be made aware of the potentially devastating consequences of such misuse – the only way to do this is through education.
It is time to take media literacy seriously.
A letter in the same edition of the Irish Times argues that “legislation must be set in place to ensure that complaints involving cyber-bullying are taken incredibly seriously”; on the other hand, theJournal.ie reports that the founder of one of the controversial sites has argued that “It is not about the site”: “Don’t blame a tool, but try to make changes”.
Update (6 November 2012): At the launch of a report on Dealing with Bullying in Schools: a Consultation with Children & Young People (pdf) prepared by the Office of the Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan called on the Government to build on the ongoing work of the Department of Education by including the Department of Health in the development of an anti-bullying strategy in order to ensure that bullying is addressed as a public health issues rather than one confined to the sphere of education. On cyber-bullying, the report has this to say:
Children and young people identified a number of topics that they felt need to be included in initiatives to improve awareness and understanding of bullying:
- the different types of bullying that exist, including homophobic bullying, racial bullying, and cyber-bullying; …
Several young people spoke of their concerns about cyber-bullying, with one young person characterising it as a form of “stalking”. They were of the view that it is a “big issue” and that schools must play a role in efforts to tackle it. In particular, they felt that schools could participate in ensuring that children and young people are more fully informed about cyber-bullying by:
- explaining what cyber-bullying is and what forms it can take;
- encouraging children and young people to take responsibility for their words and actions online and sensitising children and young people to the impact that their words and actions online can have;
- supporting children and young people to fully appreciate the damaging and sometimes devastating consequences of cyber-bullying on victims;
- highlighting to children and young people that there can also be adverse consequences for those who engage in cyber-bullying, including the existence of a permanent record of their actions, which they may regret in the future when they are no longer involved in this kind of behaviour;
- advising children and young people about what they should do if they experience or come across cyber-bullying – for example, save the comments/emails;
- speak to a parent, teacher or another trusted adult about it; and report it immediately to the service provider.
The Justice Minister is encouraging anyone who is being bullied to report it to the Gardaí. … Speaking in the Dáil this evening Minister Shatter said that bullying is a form of harassment and as such falls within [section 10] of the Non-fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997 [also here]. …
Section 10 is not entirely straightforward, so the Minister confirmed that he has asked the Law Reform Commission to examine the law as it currently stands, in particular as to whether there are difficulties in prosecuting for cyberbullying, to compare how the issue has been dealt with in other jurisdictions, such including in Scotland and Australia, and I hope that we can learn from other jurisdictions, and to make recommendations.
Nor is Shatter the only Minister making waves on this issue. His colleague, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald, last week met with Simon Millner, Policy Director for Facebook in Ireland and the UK, to discuss cyber-bullying and internet safety. She welcomed the safeguards put in place by Facebook, but she expressed “her concern that certain other websites popular among Irish teenagers do not include the same safeguards”. In those cases, the advice given above remains very relevant.