ISPCC Limerick manager says cyberbullying is 'number one' internet safety issue

Fintan Walsh

Reporter:

Fintan Walsh

Zoe O’Sullivan, 17, with her mum Joni, who has been calling on the Government to crackdown on cyberbullying Picture: Liam Burke/Press 22

Zoe O’Sullivan, 17, with her mum Joni, who has been calling on the Government to crackdown on cyberbullying Picture: Liam Burke/Press 22

CYBERBULLYING is the “number one” internet safety issue for young people, the local branch of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has said.

Gillian Baker, manager of the ISPCC regional branch in Limerick city, said that cyberbullying has had a “negative impact on children’s sense of worth and wellbeing”, and that “aggressive and bullying” behaviour is often perceived as “the norm” online.

Ms Baker’s comments come after the Limerick Leader interviewed a mum from the Ennis Road who is calling on the Government to make an urgent crackdown on cyberbullying, after her teenager daughter suffered a “breakdown” following online taunting for over a year.

Joni O’Sullivan’s 17-year-old daughter attempted to take her own life after she was receiving “upward of 50 messages a day from kids from all different schools around Limerick telling her to kill herself”.

After Joni spoke out to highlight Zoe’s experience, the teenager has been contacted by a large number of people who have been through similar experiences.

Joni said that her daughter has been “empowered” by the response. Zoe said that she is “so much stronger now” with the support she has received.

“We see very negative impacts on their own sense of self and their own wellbeing, especially around issues coming up around their own identity and comparing themselves to the unrealistic standards that might be seen online. Whether that is with other friends or celebrity culture or things like that,” said Ms Baker.

The Labour party is lobbying for the progression of the Harassment and Related Offences Bill 2017, whose aim is to tackle cyberbullying in Ireland.

TD Jan O’Sullivan said that her party will be looking to soon have the Bill discussed and supported by other parties. Communications Minister Denis Naughton has confirmed the appointment of a Digital Safety Officer, whose role will be to act as an online watchdog and tackle cyberbullying.