'Fine the parents of children who cyber-bully €100'
PARENTS of cyber-bullies should face fines of up to €100, a conference on the issue has heard.
Retired garda and counsellor with Bully4u, Kevin Deering, said he would welcome a financial penalty on parents whose children bully others online.
The senior facilitator with the bullying prevention group said that fathers and mothers of repeat offenders should be hardest hit.
Mr Deering, a counsellor and now a retired garda with over 30 years' service, said the scale of the problem is such that "severe sanctions" for repeat offenders are required.
But he stressed that its main focus should be to curb the "insidious" nature of cyber-bullying.
If financial penalties were introduced it would "focus the minds" of the parents who fail to engage in meaningful conversation with their bullying children and school authorities, he suggested.
Penalties of between €50 and €100 could be levied against parents to deter their children from bullying again.
"Parents are responsible for their children if they're under 18, so training and educating the parents is crucial," he said.
"It's about learning from behaviour - if somebody doesn't learn there has to be sanctions."
Mr Deering said the long-term effects of cyber-bullying on the mental health of its victims must be considered.
"You have to up the ante with re-offenders; somebody has to take responsibility," he said.
The spokesperson for Bully4u said for such a scheme to work, it would need to be enshrined in law, with a mechanism to collect outstanding fines.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O'Connor has backed calls for a full audit of existing legislation dealing with cyber-bullying.
She said it is needed to ensure a comprehensive response to a growing problem.
"We need to look at existing legislation and see how we can improve it to deal with new apps and new technology our students are using," she said.
Speaking at the National Cyber-bullying Conference, Geoffrey Shannon, the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, said it is vital the law keeps pace with technology.
Mr Shannon pointed out that that current legislation dates back to 1997.
Clive Byrne of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals called for a dedicated classroom module on bullying at junior and senior cycle levels in our schools.
He said more funding is needed to train teachers in this area as well as improved school guidelines for parents.
Mr Byrne also proposed a dedicated classroom module on cyber-bullying to be made an integral part of the junior and senior school curriculum in secondary school to teach children how to cope with bullies.
Cyber-bullying has "impacted upon morale in schools across Ireland", he said.
The conference was organised by the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre at DCU and Bully4u.