Online Safety Bill cannot be left on the sidelines – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, has urged the Government not to let the Online Safety Bill fall to the wayside, given the huge impact cyberbullying is having on children across the state.
Speaking at today’s Oireachtas Education Committee session on Bullying and Mental Health in school-aged children, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“Bullying can have a profound effect, not just on the children involved, but on their parents and siblings as well.
“The prevalence of social media in recent years has brought with it a stark increase in cyberbullying.
“Where previously there might have been respite when you left the school grounds, social media has enabled bullying to follow young people home through their phone.
“We have been pushing for the Government to act on the creation of a Digital Safety Commissioner since 2017. The Government’s Online Safety Bill has been gathering dust, meanwhile many children are facing extraordinarily difficult situations of bullying every day.
“At the Education Committee today, I raised with the Ombudsman for Children the urgent need to progress the Online Safety Bill, and quickly, to begin to tackle this massive issue.
“I also raised the need for uniform, inclusive educational programmes such as RSE and SPHE to be implemented across all schools.
“We know that a lack of understanding and stereotyping can lead to bullying in the school setting. Without inclusive programmes that apply across all schools regardless of a school’s ethos, a lack of understanding around differing ethnicities, identities, sexual orientations and family circumstances may only continue.
“We need to equip teachers with the skills, both to educate students on the causes and effects of bullying, and to tackle bullying directly if it rears its ugly head within a school.
“The huge impact bullying can have cannot be understated. I would urge the Government to recognise this, and to make the Online Safety Bill a priority."