STAFF and students at Colaiste Mhuire in Johnstown have decided to tackle cyberbullying directly and have launched an awareness initiative to help deal with the issue which is being blamed for a number of suicides in young people in recent months.
“After the tragic deaths that happened before Christmas we decided to be more proactive and thought it was important for the school to show some leadership. There is a myth out there that if you ignore something it will go away and we tried to dispel that. We taught students about internet etiquette and where the boundaries are and we would encourage parents to be ‘friends’ with their children on social networking sites.”
The initiative is a joint venture by the IT and Guidance Counselling departments at the school. The teachers involved harnessed the topical and tragic events which had featured prominently in the media by linking up with the Transition Year Enterprise Christmas Trade Show.
The students manned a cyberbullying stand at the event
Having begun our Cyberbullying Awareness Initiative in earnest the team of teachers are now planning to follow up this term with a guest speaker on the matter in February. “We hope to get a psychologist into the school who can talk separately with both students and parents. This will be followed by an ISPCC speaker in March in conjunction with the Guidance Counsellor Ms Valerie Dempsey,” said Mr Dunne.
“The worst thing any school/family can do is ignore the issue of cyberbullying or try to ban internet activity,” says co-ordinator Mr John Dunne. “The only way to deal with the issue is to educate young people on Netiquette or Internet Etiquette. This way we can prepare them for life online, make them more aware of potential harm and how to act should a situation arise,” he added.
Further information on the Coláiste Mhuire Cyberbullying Initiative can be found on www.colaistemhuirekk.ie or by contacting the school on 056-8831135.
Meanwhile Deputy Ann Phelan will address the issue of cyber bullying and the influence social media plays on public debate at a special meeting of the Oireachtas Committee over the coming weeks. “Negative comments especially when they are personalised are difficult to deal, I think because it’s some what like a herd mentality, someone posts, it gets added to and so on, because I am on the communications committee in the Dail, this subject is come before us soon because of the deaths before Christmas. People can be very nasty on social media because they are not dealing with each other face to face,” she added.