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Head of Ireland's Police Force aims to "Wipe Out" Online Bullying

February 7, 2012, 9:10 AM

According to an article in today’s Irish Examiner, Martin Callinan the Garda Commissioner of Ireland aims to wipe out online bullying with a new safety campaign. 

A survey conducted by the National Parents Council Primary and the National Centre for Technology in Education found that 55% of all Irish parents regularly check what their child is doing online by viewing browser history files, emails and other records. If the child is a teenager even 74% of parents. 59% were concerned about their child being bullied online. 

The Garda Commissioner spoke at the Safer Internet Day that also marked the launch of the Webwise primary school programme and the new Garda online strategy. 

"My advice is, if there is a disturbing message that they would keep it and show it to somebody so we can take action through the service providers or indeed ourselves to stop it." 

Apparently both the Irish Police and parents are taking the issue of cyber-bullying pretty seriously. The phrase “taking action through the service providers” sounds as if the Police could not only demand to get the identity of the bully but also prevent further messages by cutting the access to the cell phone network or Internet. 

Executing this campaign with Irish mobile phone providers might work, but I wonder how this could be executed on sites like YouTube which is infamous for its “comment trolls”. On the other hand, Facebook might be easier to handle as the companies international HQ is located in Ireland and the network already worked together with different bodies of the European Union in the past. 

Police intervention seems to be a pretty radical approach to a problem that Larry Magid of SafeKids.com said “is a serious problem but not an epidemic” in 2011. But in January 2012 an Ipsos/Reuters poll found that more than 10% of parents around the world say their child has been cyberbullied and nearly one-fourth know a youngster who has been a victim. 

And most surveys come up with the conclusion that there is a distinct difference between the “classic” in person bullying and cyber-bullying. In a Pew study published in November 2011 a middle school girl said 

“I think people get – like when they get on Facebook, they get ruthless, stuff like that. They act different in school and stuff like that, but when they get online, they act like a totally different person. You get a lot of confidence.” 

Mr Callinan also stated in his speech that society expected people to behave in a certain way face-to-face, but that today you don’t always have that in terms of the Internet and people hide behind computers and mobile phones.

Photo: Portrait of sad little girl via Shutterstock


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