While the digital revolution has made so many incredible improvements in our lives in the past decade, there are areas of concern particularly in relation to the tragedy of cyber bullying. In some cases parents feel that an information gap has developed between them and their children in relation to digital technologies and this is entirely understandable.

We have heard of some tragic cases in recent weeks and months, where children have suffered terrible forms of abuse and bullying in online forums. Often, parents have been unaware that this was going on, or if they had an inclination, they felt powerless to stop it. There may be a case for looking at ways to eliminate anonymous online social media users, or to ensure forums where children are present, there is some verification system.

As a society we have a duty to provide each child with a safe and non-threatening environment to grow up in. There is a balance to be struck here between children’s rights to grow and develop and engage with new technologies and forms of communication, and our remit as legislators and parents and guardians to ensure they can do this in as safe a way as possible. We must also balance this with the freedom of speech and thought which the Internet allows flourish. We can never  perhaps fully eliminate bullying from human behavior, but we can ensure there are very clear consequences if this does occur, and that we pick up signals that may indicate it is happening. The youth advocacy agency SpunOut has published some good tips today for parents or anyone who may have experienced or witnessed cyber bullying:

These include:

▪   Don’t reply to the messages.

▪   Save the evidence (photo/email/video/web post, etc.) as proof.

▪   Tell a trusted adult, such as a close relative, a family friend, a teacher, health professional or a youth worker.

▪   Contact a free confidential support service such as Samaritans – telephone 1850 609090.

▪   Report the bullying to the Gardaí.

▪   Report the bullying to the technology providers such as the mobile phone company, web host or website owner

If you are a person who is being bullied, it is important not to keep it to yourself. Tell a friend, your parents, a teacher or someone who will be able to help you and give you support. Other tips include:

▪   Don’t reply to the messages. If there’s no answer, hopefully they will get bored and stop harassing you.

▪   Don’t delete the messages; you can use them as evidence for reporting the crime.

▪  Report the bullying to the Gardaí and your phone company. This will bring about awareness of the problem and perhaps the phone company can give you a new phone number or the Gardaí could caution the person harassing you.

More information is available on www.spunout.ie and also there is a series on bullying, Bullyproof, presented by David Coleman, starting on RTE tonight at 10.15pm, which may be of interest to parents.