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Internet and Facebook bullying comes home to haunt Irish parents - Tragic deaths of two teenagers reveal scope of the problem

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Ciara Pugsley

We were always told as young fellas that stick and stone will break your bones but names will never hurt you, since the internet became a main component in our lives this has gone right out the window.

I remember being in school and getting a few thumps from the school bully and that was it really, once you got a few belts and the bully got whatever he had on his chest off it was over! Other people weren’t as lucky, but even back then when the school day was over there was no contact with the bully after 3pm. Once you were inside your front door you were in a safe place and nobody could get at you, home was always your safe haven!

This is no longer the matter and the world and her mother can now make their way into a laptop sitting on your lap in front of your own fire and this to me is very frightening. The cyber bully must be the worst kind of all, they are also known as ‘keyboard cowards’ and they sit behind their computers or over their phones and send messages most of the time without the abused knowing how they are. Other knows their abusers but are too young and too afraid to know what to do!

The funeral of Erin Gallagher a young 13 year old from Donegal took place this week, she knew all too well about all of this as did Ciara Pugsley of the same county. In one sense they were like leafs in the wind with a gale blowing behind them, in their heads life was out of control and out of their hands. It was in the hands of the bully!

This has a huge effect on the whole community, everybody wondering if they should have seen something wrong or something different. When this is happening on social networking sites and private messages being sent it’s very hard to detect from the outside.

There is a huge generation gap together between a 12 year old son or daughter and a 40 year old parent when it comes to the internet, I’d be well up on the internet but I’d imagine that kids today would be able to show me a thing or two.

As important as it is to educate children of the dangers of the net, it is even more important to teach Mom and Dad at home. The parents really need to be a few steps ahead all the time and this is no easy task, but if we are to protect our children properly this needs to be the case.

People have too much excess to each other these todays and it’s very easy to comment on things on these social networking sites. For example I’m on twitter and facebook and very time I’m on the TV I’d get a good few comments. I have to say most would be of a kind nature, but you would have 10-15% negative! I’m gone well passed taking stuff to heart but there are times when you’re having a bad day and you’d look twice about what somebody said. Then you just clear your head and realize that I’d the person who wrote whatever they did that has issues and not you. This is all well and good for a 36 year old man, but what when this happens to a child going to school. They wouldn’t have a clue how to process this! This is the problem of course.

We discussed this on my show during the week and a few good things came out of it and might help parents. First of all parents should be in charge and take control of the internet access. Parents need to be tough and ban children from sites. If there are young people reading this and if you are being bullied go to someone you can truth, if not Mam and Dad then maybe a cool Uncle or Aunt. I think the parents should even say this to their children to go to ‘Uncle Dan’ if you need to talk. It’s not a reflection on the parent it’s of the situation. It’s very important that they speak out.

Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to the families of Erin Gallagher and Ciara Pugsley. Ar dheis go raibh a n-anamacha uasal!

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