Devastating consequences of teen bullying continue to make headlines in Ireland and other countries. As a result of harassment, some children take their own lives due to the abuse of a bully. A bully is someone that attempts to intimidate or inflict harm on another person, whether emotionally or physically. Bullies come in all ages, genders, races, and sizes, and are very common among school aged children. Learn about Bullying in Ireland Now!
Types of Abuse
Torture can arrive in the form of verbal abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, or cyber bullying.
Verbal abuse often takes the form of name calling, mean insults, and generally belittling another person. Emotional abuse occurs when a person is shunned, for whatever reason. Physical bullying is when a person inflicts intentional pain on someone else such as punching, kicking, biting, pinching, pulling hair, etc. Cyber bullying is a new form of abuse and is particularly harmful to children between the ages of 13 and 18.
Cyber bullying is a very potent type of technological abuse. What makes this type of abuse so impactful, is that harassment is not restricted to school, but can “follow” a person due to computers and smartphones used by the majority of students. On these devices, online media is accessed, and communication is constant. Rumors can be started, pictures can be sent, and threatening text and voicemail messages can also be sent; anytime, anywhere.
Cyber bullying can impact the psyche of a young person because with media exposure, all comments and photos are widely viewed. Children can quickly be overwhelmed and feel ostracized when harmful comments are made and believed. During an impressionable and vulnerable time of life, cyber bullying can have dire consequences
Case of Cyber Bullying
Ciara Pugsley chose to end her life after being bullied online. She was 15 years old and lived in Leitrim. She suffered from insults directed at her on a popular social website, Ask.fm.com. The Gardai were asked to investigate the online history of cyber abuse following Ciara’s tragic death. The website associated with Ciara’s death has also been in the media spotlight for further suicides.
Another recent case of bullying in Ireland involves the sad story of two sisters, Erin (13) and Shannon (15) Gallaher who committed suicide within months of each other. The reasons for their deaths point to cyber bullying on the teen website Ask.fm.com. The mother of these girls is determined to shut down the site Ask.fm.com and is receiving global support from other parents due to more than a dozen suicides related to similar activity on this website (Ask.fm.com has faced no criminal conviction).
Ask.fm.com was designed for teenagers for the sake of communicating information; the site allows people to ask questions and wait for replies. Answers to questions can be posted anonymously, which has led to poor behavior.
Currently Ask.fm.com is enjoying great success with millions of users and does not accept blame for any suicides that have been associated with their website. Because they understand that harassment is taking place on their site, Ask.fm.com has newly implemented safety features such as buttons to block and report users. These new options allow teens the ability to control correspondence and the ability to report abusive behavior.
One quarter of children between the ages of 9 and 16 report experiencing some form of bullying or harassment. Surveys conducted among children in the aforementioned age group show that more than half of bullying victims would choose not to report their abuse to their parents or school because of possible repercussions.
Children often view their world in small terms and don’t want to provoke the bully by getting them “in trouble” and children don’t want to upset authority figures at home, which could result in the loss of their own privileges.
With the devastation of suicides connected to cyber bullying, the societal problem of bullying and harassment in general has gained worldwide focus. Bullying in Ireland is recognized and criminal and civil laws are in place that can reduce some of the problems.
Criminal Law: Although there is no specific law against general bullying in Ireland, three types of abuse are illegal and parents should contact the An Garda Siochana if any of the following occur:
1. Physical contact: assault, or beating.
2. Serious threats to kill or harm another person.
3. Repeated harassment of another person.
Civil Law: Schools and the Board of Management are responsible for protecting students that are placed in their care. A school will be found negligent if they fail to protect a child from injury, in reasonable circumstances. While at school children should be cared for by staff members in the same way as a “prudent parent” cares for their own offspring.
Cyber bullying and the Law
There are no laws in place for the specific act of cyber bullying. However, if a student is harassed or threatened over their phone, this may count as an offense under the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997, which does not allow harassment via the telephone.
Documentation and Records
It is imperative to keep all evidence of abuse and harassment. Whether text messages, online posts or conversation, or offensive photos, everything that is transmitted through cyberspace is available… forever. Nothing is private, and complete records can be obtained to prove the history of abuse.
In Ireland, the Gardai has the power to request information from Irish websites for investigations into cyber bullying. Outside of the country, it may be more difficult, though possible with the correct authorities, to obtain full records from phone and online companies.
As a parent, it is vital to keep a journal and keep documentation of all abuse that is taking place; there are many ways to become involved and help students conquer a bullying situation.
Tips for Parents
The first step in helping a child involves an aware parent. Parents need to be involved in their child’s life and communication should be open. Parents should be alert to changes in behavior, torn clothes, and cuts and bruises. Parents should address social issues; children shouldn’t be afraid to reveal being bullied.
Parents can comfort their children by helping them face their fears and learn how to stand up for themselves in the actual world and online. With these 6 tips, parents can help stop the abuse:
- Never react impulsively. Anger may surface and the protective instinct may produce negative ideas about retaliation on behalf of your child. Resist the urge to take abrupt or negative action.
- Stick to the facts. Learn the details about the bullying situation and record everything. Keeping emotions separate, it is important to deal with factual events without overreacting.
- Work with school administration or other parents to protect all children involved. When possible, enlist the support of fellow parents and school staff. Very seldom does a bully limit his rage to one outlet; if he has demonstrated abusive behavior, there are likely more victims than your child.
- Implement programs and consequences for bullies; set a precedent at school. When a parent has the opportunity to be instrumental in developing programs that bring awareness and consequences to bullying behavior, they should do so for the sake of their own child and others.
- Visit a therapist or counselor; professional conversations may help your child deal with feelings and personal responsibility. By speaking to someone skilled in the psychology of bullying, the healing process will be more thorough and self assurance may arrive sooner than if left solely in the hands of the parent.
- Learn from this bullying episode. After helping your child to confront the bullying situation and not accept the role of “victim”, he will be ready when the next instance presents itself. He will recognize an abusive encounter and know how to conduct himself.
Bullying in Ireland is a serious problem that is being recognized by the country. There are heartbreaking cases of suicide that have brought attention to the bullying issues within the schools. With technology, cyber bullying takes the abuse away from the schoolyard, leaving who liable?
Tragedy has brought new light to the very real problem of students harassing other students in person and especially online. As new laws are developed in Ireland, parents, school staff, and law enforcement must work together to reduce the traumatic bullying issues for the younger generations.
Sources: http://www.antibullyingireland.com/index_sub.html;nabc.ie; www.ispcc.ie;www.irishexaminer.com;