People who shared or made derogatory comments on the image of a teenage girl engaged in a sex act at the Slane concert last weekend were “just as bad as the person who put it online” , youth support service Spunout.ie has said.
Spunout.ie spokesman Ian Power said the focus needed to be on the psychology of the person who would take a photo and post it online. "There is no way they could not be aware of the impact," he said.
People need to “challenge bullying where they see it” and not think its okay to pass comment on depriving someone of their privacy and humiliating them as with the Slane photograph, he said.
It was “not funny or banter” and many of those commenting on the photograph as it spread yesterday were not teenagers but were men in their 20s and 30s, he said.
In such cases of online privacy invasion it always seemed to be the woman who was “vilified” and any push against this is viewed as overzealous feminism rather than being “decent human beings” , he said.
People should be educated so that they are aware that sharing something like this is “unacceptable”, he said.
He urged the Government to set up a central body to oversee such issues and keep tabs on social media sites as recommended by an Oireachtas committee on communications report. Ireland was also in a unique position to place more pressure on social media companies because many are headquartered here, he said.
Mr Power’s advice for young people who are the victims of cyberbulling or invasion of privacy online is to 1. Step away from the social media sites and deactivate accounts even temporarily so as not to be consumed by it 2. To make sure of the trust and support of family and friends and realise it is not the end of the world and 3. To deal with it through social networks or gardaí so the situation can be neutralised and people can go back to normal.
Social media companies Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have moved to try and block access to the images of the under 18 girl after they went viral on Sunday.
Online abuse and bullying has a “more extreme” impact on young people than traditional forms because it is “quickly viewable by the public” and is “very hard to respond to”, Andrew Jackson the anti-bullying coordinator of the ISPCC said. While cyberbulling is less common than traditional bullying it is “on the rise” he said.
“Now the refuge of coming in the front door is gone and people can still get texts and messages when they log on ” he said. However he said parents should not “jump to take the computer away” as this is just “punishing the child for being bullied
Young people need to take steps like not giving out personal information on social sites and keep evidence of online bullying or abuse in case it persists and they need to report it to gardaí or welfare services as harassment, he said.
Professor Mona Moore Co-ordinator of the anti-bullying centre at Trinity College Dublin urged young people to think what would be the “worst scenario” before putting information out online about themselves.
“It is almost like putting yourself in a shop window and then being very surprised when you are attacked and the hurt that is done with that”.
She also called for a change in attitudes towards and more criticism of bullies and perpetrators so it would “no longer be cool” be associated with “cowardly” acts and with someone who has such “negative traits”.
The impact of online bullying on young people is an erosion of self esteem, sadness, hopelessness, depression, selfharming and suicidal thoughts, she said. The anonymity online means that people are distrustful of others, she said.
President of the National Anti-Bullying Coalition Monica Moore said cyberbullying usually had the same dynamic as traditional bullying and people needed to be educated about good online and face-to-face behaviour.
Spunout: spunout.ie Childline: Phone: 1800 666 666, text talk to 50101, childline.ie
The Samaritans: Phone: 1850 60 90 90 TXT: 087 2 60 90 90 Email: email@example.com
Watch Your Space campaign: www.watchyourspace.ie and Facebook.com/watchyourspace.