Coalition to launch media drive against cyberbullying

 

A national media campaign highlighting the implications of cyberbullying will form part of a Government plan to combat the problem among young people this year.

At the publication of the Government plan on bullying yesterday, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said for some children and young people, “bullying is a scourge that can . . . obliterate their happiness”.

He added that several recent suicides among young people, which may have been linked to cyberbullying, had highlighted the need for a comprehensive strategy to tackle the problem.

Existing anti-bullying guidelines for schools, which date from 1993, will be strengthened before the next school year.

Schools will be required to keep a formal record of bullying incidents, which can be reviewed by inspectors. Boards of management will be expected to play a more active role in evaluating the school’s effectiveness in creating a positive environment for pupils.

A particular emphasis will be placed on tackling homophobic bullying and harassment through social media sites under the guidelines. And a training schedule for parents and school boards will be advanced.

Resources

A website will also be established to provide resources on tackling bullying for teachers, parents, youth workers and young people.

A budget of €500,000 has been ringfenced to implement the plan, which will include funding for the National Suicide Prevention Office to research the prevalence and impact of cyberbullying on young people’s mental health.

“The role of parents and the wider community is simply crucial in shaping the attitudes and behaviour that encourages respect and empathy for others in young people,” said Mr Quinn.

The plan has been broadly welcomed by organisations representing schools, teachers and young people, including the Equality Authority, Irish Vocational Education Association, the INTO, and the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union.

ASTI general secretary Pat King said any action to support schools in tackling bullying was welcome, but the plan comes at a time when cutbacks to education budgets were “impacting directly on a school’s ability to provide a supportive environment for vulnerable young people”.

Sinn Féin education spokesman Jonathan O’Brien said the measures to combat bullying were a positive step, but such initiatives should be “underpinned with clear procedures that have a legal standing”.