Parents can be 'neglectful' over use of technology

Lack of parental oversight can help create conditions for cyber-bullying, reports Anna Cullen

Cyber-bullying is an issue that has been raised in Ireland for many years now. Photograph: Getty Images

Cyber-bullying is an issue that has been raised in Ireland for many years now. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Cyber-bullying is an issue that has been raised in Ireland for many years now - yet little, it seems, has been done to prevent it. According to a survey carried out by emarkable.ie in 2015, there are 2.4 million Irish people using Facebook every month, and 87per cent of these people log on using their phones.  Of this figure, 1.8 million people use the social networking site every day. 

By comparison, there are 700,000 people logging on to Twitter every day. Fifty three per cent of this figure is 15-24 year olds. Twenty two per cent of the Irish population has a Snapchat account, the majority of whilch are owned by young people.

As a student in third-level education, I am not a stranger to cyber-bullying. I was once a victim, and I see it happening on social media daily.

So, I want to know how this country plans to prevent bullying amongst children and young people. Bullying affects you both mentally and physically and it is shocking that it is still an issue today.

Pat Forde, who is involved with stopthebully.ie, is a graduate of the University of Limerick and is trained to help those that have been bullied around the country. He has a service that helps them deal with and cope with the trauma of being bullied and he also gives workshops on the topic.

He spoke of kids having mobile phones: “the problem is creeping in with young people and with kids in particular”.

“From a parent’s point of view, it’s very hard to buy something that’s appropriate for a child. I’ve done it in the past where I’ve gone around to phone shops just to see what is available there for young people.”

“I’ve told them I want to buy a phone for an eight year old child and they’ll all try and sell you something that looks like a Smartphone,” he went on to say.

He expressed the fact that “it’s hard to get your hands on a device in which they don’t have access to Snapchat and Instagram and all this kind of stuff”.

When it comes to parents, Pat does feel that some of them can be quite “neglectful” when it comes to technology that their kids are using.

“They don’t give it to the kids with boundaries, you know, they’ll let their children take their phones to bed with them and what I see happening quite a bit is kids just tormenting other kids at night-time on the phones.”

“They send the other children pictures of maybe play days. It can be something as simple as an eight or nine year old – if they happen to be in someone’s house playing and they’re sending pictures to whoever they’ve left out showing them look, we’re playing here and we didn’t include you.”

Pat pointed out that parents can do “a little bit more to help out”.

“Parents should not be letting their kids take their phones to their bedrooms at night. Adults shouldn’t be letting kids have access to their phone after a certain time every evening so that they have the time to chill out.”

“Just basically, children should put their phones away every now and again,” said Pat.

What’s worrying at the moment is the fact that strangers have easy access to children across the world through social media. These strangers can pretend, by using a false picture or name, that they are someone else.  They can lie about their age, their gender, their nationality and of course they can rope vulnerable children into believing they want to be “friends” with them.

Online games can also be quite dangerous as children and young people all over the world can play against one another and the sites they use are often open to abuse.

“Something that I’ve bit on is the fact that, fair enough for the likes of Facebook to say that you should be a teenager to be online but, if you give a child an iPad, they can pick up a game that’s familiarising themselves with the concepts of social media,” expressed Pat.

 “They’re all playing Minecraft now. You can go on that and be connected to strangers”.

Of a survey I conducted amongst 25 third-level education students, both male and female, 16 per cent replied and 84 per cent did not want to answer.

Their answers insisted that they used Facebook the most on a monthly basis. These students noted that they knew about half of their friends on this social media site.

Of the 16per cent, they all said they had witnessed cyber-bullying on the net. Half of them reported this bullying and the other half didn’t.

Some of the students were given phones when they were under the age of ten, and they were allowed to take their phones to bed with them at night.

In Belfast, the website nobullying.com released statistics of cyber-bullying recorded between 2013 and 2014. Almost 95 per cent of teens surveyed had said they witnessed cyber-bullying on social media but chose to ignore it while 65 per cent of teens go online without adult supervision.

In 2012, two Irish girls committed suicide after receiving comments posted on "Ask.fm", a website that allowed users to post anonymously. This allowed anyone to comment or say whatever they wanted, without being caught.

Despite the outcry that followed these tragedies, cyber-bullying continues to be an issue.  If you have been affected by cyber-bullying and need some advice, visit stopthebully.ie for more information.