Cyber bullying

January 1, 2018

Cyberbullying is now an epidemic among Teenagers! Where is the vaccine?

Whilst the Internet has brought immense positive changes there have been some negative developments also.

Cyberbullying is defined by as an aggressive, intentional act carried out by a group or individual, using mobile phones or the Internet, repeatedly and over time against a victim who cannot easily defend him or herself.

The European Commission defines cyberbullying as repeated verbal or psychological harassment carried out by an individual or a group against others through online services and mobile phones.

So how common is cyberbullying?

Online harassment can take different forms and the legal definition of cyberbullying often varies depending on where the victim is living. The lack of harmonisation at European level is highlighted by the fact that only Belgium, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the UK and Spain have dedicated juvenile courts to try these kinds of cases. The World Health Organisation warned that cases of depression and suicide could arise from cyberbullying, especially among minors.

A survey managed by YouGov on behalf of Vodafone found that one in four teens in Ireland had been cyberbullied compared with one in five across 11 other countries surveyed while most Irish teens do not have the coping skills to deal with the abuse.

Almost two-thirds of Irish teenagers described cyberbullying as being worse than face-to-face bullying while just over half said it was a bigger problem than drug abuse for young people.

The global survey of approximately 5,000 teenagers across 11 countries including Ireland has revealed it found that 45 percent of Irish teenagers felt helpless when they were the victims of cyber-bullying while 29 percent acknowledged that they felt “completely alone” when they were targeted. One in four of those who had been cyberbullied went so far as to experience suicidal thoughts as a result.

Despite the public profile that cyberbullying has these days, there have been very few research studies directly comparing it to more traditional methods of harassment. Do victims of cyberbullying experience greater emotional trauma than victims of other types of bullying? Experts suggest that the emotional trauma of online harassment can be far more damaging than other forms of bullying, demonstrating it can be difficult to prove and harder to prosecute.

There are two main challenges we face today that make it tough to prevent cyberbullying. Firstly, even though this problem has existed for nearly two decades, some people still don’t see the harm associated with it. Some try to dismiss or disregard cyberbullying because there are more serious forms of aggression to worry about. Of course, it is true that there are many concerns facing teenagers, parents, teachers, police and our courts today. Now we need to accept that cyberbullying is one such problem that will only get worse if ignored. The other test is who is willing to step up to the mark and take responsibility for answering to the unsuitable usage of technology. For me, it falls firmly on the lap of our respective governments and lawmakers.

New Proposed Laws

There are new proposed laws in Ireland to confront online abuse issues. These laws cover such as cyber bullying, cyber stalking, revenge porn and other types of related online harassment.

Under the proposals, offences such as online harassment/cyber bullying and cyber stalking would lead to a fine (unlimited) and/or a jail sentence of up to 7 years. For less serious cases of these offences, a fine of €5000 and/or up to 12 months in prison are applicable.

There is a real need to get these legislative suggestions signed and stamped into law. The more important question is how are our young victims going to report the abuse, what methods will be made available for our children that guarantee them a safe manner that will ensure they are secure in bringing this offence to the attention of the parents, teachers, friends, family member and authorities and then what assistance is the State going to provide for their recovery.

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