The scale of bullying in Ireland remains a matter of grave concern. This is borne out by recent research findings. My Department’s Growing Up in Ireland study found that more than 24% of nine to 17 year olds have reported being bullied. The Anti-Bullying Centre in Trinity College Dublin has found one in four girls and one in six boys have been involved in cyberbullying either as a victim, bully or both.
Research commissioned by the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, GLEN, and BeLonG To on the experiences of young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, LGBT, people in Irish schools has found that 58% reported the existence of homophobic bullying.
Deputy Ó Caoláin and I, as well as every other Member, are aware of the terrible and corrosive effects of a bullying culture on our children and young people. These effects relates to their confidence, learning outcomes, self-esteem and mental health and they can last for years. Sadly, in some case they can result in the loss of young lives. In recent times we have learned of several tragic cases involving bullying. On behalf of the Government and on my own behalf I extend my sympathies to the families and friends of the young people who have died.
As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs I am committed to working with colleagues in government to ensure that integrated policy responses to combat bullying are high on our agenda. The new Children First guidelines, which I published last year, recognise for the first time the problem of bullying. Earlier this year the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Quinn, and I hosted the first national anti-bullying forum to bring relevant stakeholders together. This was a great opportunity to bring together people who are working to address the issue, to explore how best to tackle bullying in schools and to consider the strategies and practices required to address new challenges associated with modern communications technologies.
The Education (Welfare) Act 2000 obliges all schools to have a code of behaviour. I call on schools to redouble their efforts to address the problems of bullying.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
I commend the work of the National Centre for Technology in Education on responding to the rise of cyber-bullying. I encourage parents, teachers, young people or anybody else with concerns about cyber-bullying to visit the website, www.webwise.ie, and I call on Members to help promote this website in their constituencies.
It is my intention to ensure that the actions recommended by the national anti-bullying forum working group and other measures to respond to bullying will be prioritised in the new children and young people's policy framework being prepared by my Department. As part of the preparations of the children and young people policy framework I have received a detailed submission on the issue of bullying from the anti-bullying centre in Trinity College and this is under review by my Department.