Friday, November 16, 2012

Cyberbully fears spark increase in calls to helplines

Cyberbully fears spark increase in calls to helplines

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Children’s groups and organisations for parents have seen a rise in numbers calling with concerns about cyberbullying.

Both the ISPCC and Parentline confirmed that they had received a spike in the number of calls and enquiries following the tragic deaths of teenagers Erin Gallagher in Donegal and Ciara Pugsley in Leitrim. Both girls took their own lives in recent months after being the victims of cyberbullying.

Margie Roe, national Childline manager with the ISPCC, said the service receives about 11,000 calls a year on the subject of bullying, but that an increase had been recorded in the last number of months.

"At various times of the year it goes up and down," said Ms Roe. "In April, we saw a significant rise and in the last number of months also. We get about 11,000 calls a year on the subject of bullying and the majority of those encompass cyberbullying, whether it be on mobile phones or on various social networking sites."

Ms Roe said the ISPCC support line for parents and adults had also received an increase in those asking for advice on how to deal with cyberbullying.

"That sort of increase, while not huge, is definitely not usual," she said. "We have also received a lot of emails from teachers looking for tips and outreach advice in dealing with internet safety for their pupils."

Parentline CEO Rita O’Reilly said its service had seen approximately an 18% increase in the number of calls it received this year when compared to last year.

She said while the rate of calls varies from month to month, the issue of cyberbullying was increasingly on the radar of parents.

Speaking on Today FM, founder and director of the Anti-Bullying Centre in Trinity College, Mona O’Moore, said there was a definite link between bullying and suicide.

"It’s probably far more significant than we are prepared to accept, and I think it’s coming out more clearly now because of the most recent tragic events, but it has always been there," said Prof O’Moore.

"It’s hugely damaging to be bullied because it gets at the core of who you are, particularly when you are isolated and you have nobody to talk to.

"When you think of man’s greatest needs, one of them is to belong, to be in control, and to feel confident. All of those needs, in a sense, are thwarted and frustrated by being bullied. Particularly the need to belong, which is huge in a teenager, when they are forming their identity.

"You can imagine how hugely damaging that is and where is the light at the end of the tunnel then, if you are going to school every day with no adult intervention."

Meanwhile, the president of the National Anti-Bullying Coalition, Monica Monahan, will today make a presentation to senators and TDs.

How to cope

Tips for dealing with cyberbullying

* Don’t respond to the bully — save the evidence and show a trusted adult.

* Keep the message, note date and times, and show to a trusted adult.

* Block the sender. If the harassment is coming in the form of instant messages, texts, or profile comments, use preferences or privacy tools to block the person. If it is in chat, leave the room, or contact your internet service provider.

* If on a webpage or social network, report the abusive messages to the site provider.

* Above all, tell someone what is going on. You don’t have to cope alone.

* Buy a webcam cover for your webcams at C-SLIDE. This will protect you from webcam spying.

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