Gardaí warn parents to keep an eye on children's online activity amid cyber bullying concerns




By Joe Leogue
Irish Examiner Reporter

Gardaí are warning parents to familiarise themselves with the websites their children visit and the apps they use in order to minimise their exposure to online bullying.

Amid garda warnings that so-called cyber bullying can destroy lives, Detective Chief Superintendent Declan Daly of the Garda National Protective Services Bureau said a dedicated Garda Online Child Exploitation Unit is committed to tackling it “in an impactful way”.

"Cyber bullying can have a significant impact on people’s lives,” Det Supt Daly said.

Gardai are advising that the Digital Age of Consent is 16, and those under 16 should not sign up for online services, such as social media sites, without the explicit approval of their parent or guardian.

If you do decide to give your child permission to use social media sites, the best online safety strategy is to talk with your child and engage with their use of the internet,” Det Supt Daly said.

Among the tips suggested by gardaí is the importance of teaching children that whatever information is posted or shared online, will stay online.

Children should be encouraged to tell parents if they receive messages that they feel disturbed by or uncomfortable with, and should discuss ways to deal with disturbing material should they accidentally come across it.

Parents have also been reminded to implement the parental controls available on all iOS and Android devices.

Parents who discover that their child is being bullied are urged to print out and keep evidence of bullying, block the culprit, and report the problem.

"We wish to encourage victims of cyber bullying to report the bullies and provide us with the evidence to help ensure that other people do not become victims of this terrible behaviour,” Det Supt Daly said.

The Garda Online Child Exploitation Unit also has a checklist of measures to be taken by those who wish to report online bullying:

  • Keep evidence and do not to delete anything - messages should be saved and screenshots taken if necessary
  • After this, users should stop all communications with the bully and block the person responsible and then report the matter to gardaí
  • While those who may have fallen victim to online bullying may feel like deleting their account on the social media platform on which they experienced the harassment, users are urged not to do this, as the evidence will help gardaí.

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