Quarter of pupils have experienced web abuse


UP TO 25 per cent of school pupils have had experience of cyberbullying – either as a victim or as a bully.

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald revealed the figures at a new anti-bullying forum yesterday. One in four girls and one in six boys had been involved in bullying online.

We were now seeing how social media sites had regrettably become a forum for hatred and an avenue for the viral spread of personal abuse, she said, and how lives had been destroyed by cyber-bullying.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn told the forum teachers were being targeted in cyberbullying, forcing many to hide their sexual orientation in schools.

The forum is to explore ways to tackle bullying in schools. Current Department of Education guidelines on bullying have been in place since 1994 – before the era of the internet.

A working group established by the forum will examine how these guidelines should be revised and updated.

The forum – which will examine homophobic and other forms of bullying – will provide a “road map’’ for the future, according to Mr Quinn.

At present, students are alerted to the dangers of cyberbullying as a routine part of the social, personal and health education programme for students up to the Junior Certificate. However, teachers complain that the time needed to address these issues is often not available because of the crowded curriculum. The issue receives even less attention during the two-year Leaving Certificate cycle, according to teachers.

More than 100 stakeholders, including representatives of student, parent and school management groups, teacher unions, support groups for victims, rights activists and bullying experts attended the forum opening.

Mr Quinn said: “Bullying is a problem which I take very seriously. Bullying in school can ruin a young person’s enjoyment of some of the most important years of their life. In extreme situations it can also, tragically, lead to a young person taking their own life . . .

“I am very anxious that the forum focuses on identifying the practical steps and recommendations that could be taken in the short term to improve how schools approach and tackle bullying.”

Mr Quinn has also set up a working group on tackling bullying, made up of representatives of the departments of Education and of Children and Youth Affairs. It will also draw upon the expertise of a range of organisations for its work.

Submissions by email to the Department of Education at antibullying@education.gov.ie up to June 29th, 2012. See education.iefor details