herald

Friday 15 December 2017

We're failing our teenage bully victims, says expert

Niall Mulrine
Niall Mulrine

THE Government is failing teen bully victims and needs to introduce an all-year-round campaign, an expert has warned.

Niall Mulrine, who counsels victims, their parents and their teachers, says some schools and the Government are "lurching" from crisis to crisis in how they handle the issue of cyber-bullying.

He says there is no clear strategy on preventing the "next suicide" caused by online trolls and has demanded the HSE and the Department of Education roll out a campaign similar to the one to promote safer driving on our roads.

"It's almost as if we wait for the next spate of teenage suicides and then we'll have all this outrage and people running around trying to do something about it," said Mr Mulrine, who runs cybersafetyadvice.com.

Suicides

He has visited hundreds of national and secondary schools in the past three years and warned an "epidemic" of teen suicides will destroy communities unless the issue is taken seriously.

Parents, he said, had now accepted technology in their homes as a matter of fact without any checks and balances.

"I've dealt with young children whose babysitter is the X-box or SnapChat," he said.

"They can barely look up from whatever screen they have in front of them, and they can barely talk to anyone never mind communicate.

"As our children are sucked more and more into the internet and screen time, they will face the horrors of trolls.

"The issue only becomes a matter of public discussion and awareness when some poor child takes their life or when we have the annual internet safety day once a year.

"We need a proper advertising campaign across newspapers, television and social media, and it should be as prominent and as concentrated as the road safety campaign, not some ad hoc campaign," said Mr Mulrine.

The internet safety expert says parents are ultimately responsible when it comes to protecting children against cyber bullies.

"When I go into a school I have an audience because the kids are there in front of me and I can talk to them," he said.

"But when I meet parents in groups, the attendance is very different. Parents need to be educated in how social media works and how to police it."

hnews@herald.ie

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