The constant threat of cyberbullying

The constant threat of cyberbullying

Cyberbullying can have a devastating impact on the lives of victims - young and old - and in Northern Ireland, it's a growing problem.

Mobile phones and the internet are being used by, more often than not, anonymous bullies to abuse, intimidate and humiliate their targets.

Incidents of cyberbullying, also known as trolling, are three times higher now than in 2007, with just over 15% of year six pupils in Northern Ireland saying they have been a victim, according to the Department of Education.

Dr Kevin Curran, an internet expert with University of Ulster, says the fact that cyberbullying follows you home makes victims feel like there is no escape.

"The cyberbullying, in fact, can be more destructive to a young person than normal forms of bullying - which is face to face."

At least with that type of bullying, he told UTV Live Tonight, victims would have a place to go, a safe haven.

"And of course people have to use their mobile phone for normal purposes and all of a sudden, they're faced with this abuse and of course, they can go to social media sites and the abuse can be there as well, following them into the house.

"They feel exposed, they feel shamed because with cyberbullying a post appears and the person, a young person, will be aware that other people have seen it."

These faceless, nameless people are coming into our homes and abusing our children and that has to be morally, totally unacceptable.

Jonathan Pugsley, victim's father

A play 'The Impact of Cyberbullying' was staged this month at the Ardhowen Theatre in Enniskillen.

The production's aim was to increase awareness, and spark discussion on the emotional impact trolling can have on health and wellbeing of young people.

The play was watched by almost 1,000 post-primary pupils from Co Fermanagh.

Actress Claire Quinn said hopefully the students would take the play's advice that help is out there, and find someone to trust that they can talk to.

Actor Stuart Gibson said that cyber bullies say online things they won't say face to face.

"That's where it can get very nasty, very severe and result in, and cause, severe consequences," he added.

"People can hide behind a mobile phone, hide behind the internet."

After watching the production, student Adèle Gribben said: "Everyone has a mobile phone and a lot of those mobile phones have direct access to the internet.

She added that "young people have this great power in a phone in their hands and the effects of that can be absolutely devastating."

The small village of Dromahair in the border county of Leitrim knows only too well about the consequences of online bullying.

Ciara Pugsley, 15, died by suicide last September. Her father Jonathan described her as an outgoing, bubbly girl, who loved horses and all kinds of sport.

On 19 September, she went to school as normal. But that evening, without any warning, Ciara took her own life.

After much searching, her family discovered that she was being bullied on an online chat forum.

Jonathan is convinced that parents don't understand the dangers their children are being regularly exposed to on the internet.


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