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Cyberbullying law welcome, but alone will not solve problem

Blog Posts July 11th2013

11th July 2013

Youth website SpunOut.ie welcomes report on cyberbullying, but law alone will not solve problem

A Government report by the special rapporteur on child protection, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, is to recommend cyberbullying be made a criminal offence, according to today’s Irish Times.

SpunOut.ie welcomes the report and the focus on bullying as a child protection issue, but the law can only act as a deterrent, it will not solve the underlying causal behaviour.

Making cyberbullying a criminal offence could be achieved by amending Section 10 of the current Non-Fatal Against the Person Act (1997) which already criminalises persistent harassment.

In November 2012, Minister Alan Shatter acknowledged there had been difficulties in bringing successful prosecutions relating to bullying under the NFOAtP Act (1997), and said he was tasking the Law Reform Commission with amending the existing legislation.

"While criminalising cyberbullying will act as a deterrent to those who consciously bully others, the law will do little to address the problem of those who do so without realising the impact or nature of their behaviour." says Ian Power, spokesperson for youth website SpunOut.ie

"The questions we need to ask ourselves are; do we want our children who engage in bullying to have criminal records? Do we want them to serve time in juvenile detention facilities? Or do we want to address the underlying behaviour and educate every child about the consequences of bullying and teach civility both in face-to-face and online situations?"

"Social networks haven't created a new problem, they have simply augmented the issue of bullying which was already widespread in our schools, a problem which has never been properly tackled until now".

Schools

The report also recommends a new law to compel schools to introduce disciplinary codes to tackle the misuse of social media. Under current Department of Education guidelines schools are expected to have a working anti-bullying policy, which has been developed in tandem with parents and students.

"We very much welcome any move by the Government to compel schools to act, and to act consistently, in relation to reported incidents of bullying and cyberbullying where they are made."

"Uniform disciplinary measures would ensure consistency across the country in schools' approach to this problem, but it would also send out a message to students that schools are serious about tacking such behaviour."

“Consistency is important as some schools have been very proactive in highlighting and addressing this issue, while others have tried to ignore the problem and pretend their school is free from bullying behaviour."

“The school has a duty of care to it’s students and where a school has been found to have a failed to protect a student, they could be liable for civil damages, and we are seeing some moves in this direction by parents of affected young people already."

"The issue of bullying in schools cannot be solved however, when guidance counselling hours are being cut by up to 50% in some schools. This policy needs to be reversed so young people who are experiencing problems in school have someone they can go to with their concerns."

For more information:

Contact Ian Power, spokesperson for SpunOut.ie at ian@spunout.ie