New law would help protect children from online hate campaigns
Cyber-bullying is major component in mental health crisis
Fianna Fáil is proposing a major shift in the law to protect people, particularly children, from cyber-bullying.
Under new legislation from the party’s Spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs Robert Troy it will be offence to engage in cyber-bullying and it will also be an offence to assist it or encourage it. This would be the first time the offence of cyber-bullying would be defined in Irish law.
Deputy Troy commented: “So far cyber-bullying has only had consequences for the victims but now is the time to make sure there are consequences for the perpetrators too. A report by the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection Geoffrey Shannon has said the growth of cyber-bullying has “almost overnight created a readily accessible forum for bullies to target children with little or no regulation or sanction.”
“Cyber-bullying and the emergence of online hate campaigns are a major issue, particularly for teenagers at the moment, and we need a strong basis in law to help tackle it. The recent tragic deaths of a number of children who were allegedly the victims of cyber-bullying underscore the need to address this for the health and wellbeing of young people.
“A recent survey found that incidences of cyber-bullying among Irish teenagers were among the highest in among 26 European countries surveyed. Cyber-bullying is carried out by text, picture or video-clip, phone calls, emails, on social media, in chat rooms and through instant messaging. Our Bill makes cyber-bullying a specific offence for the first time in Irish law. It makes provision for parents to attend mandatory parenting courses and only provides for criminal prosecution when a parent continuously and knowingly permits cyber bullying by their child.
“The legislation states that parents will be deemed to have committed an offence where they know cyber-bullying is taking place and they don’t take any steps to stop it from continuing. Any parents found guilty of cyber-bullying would initially be required to engage with parenting courses but in serious and persistent cases people could face a prison sentence of up to two years and a fine of up to €20,000 or both. It’s important to say however that any trials of under 18’s would be dealt with in the Children’s Court.
“There is a balance to be struck in how we deal with cyber-bullying. Awareness campaigns and better education are an essential part of that but I believe strong sanctions are needed as well to act as a deterrent. Failing to tackle this issue head-on will only result in more distress for the people who are targeted by bullies.”