Thursday, 24 October 2013

Questions (159)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

159. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which modern technological advances can be utilised to prevent or track Internet bullying; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45543/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Online media are not subject to a formal regulatory regime akin to that used to 'regulate' traditional radio and television broadcast media, either in Ireland or in other jurisdictions. There are a range of reasons for this, not least the rapidly evolving nature of the technologies involved, the sensitivities around 'regulating' online media and the multi-jurisdictional nature of the Internet.

Ireland is committed through the Internet Governance Principles contained in the Declaration of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers to the principle of "Multi-stakeholder governance" . In this regard, the development of international Internet related public policies and Internet governance arrangements must allow for full and equal participation of all stakeholders from all countries. My officials have been and will continue to be engaged in the discussions on these issues. My Department also monitors international developments with a view to ensuring that domestic policy within its remit reflects best practice and that the regulatory framework is amended as necessary.

The protection of children online is of paramount importance and there are a number of initiatives already in place in this respect, notably through the Department of Education's resources and support for parents and children as well as the various initiatives carried out by the Office for Internet Safety, established by Government to take lead responsibility for Internet safety in Ireland, particularly as it relates to children. This Office operates under the aegis of the Minister for Justice and Equality. The Office also aims at building linkages and cohesion between all Departments and Agencies to ensure that the State provides the best possible protection for the community and promotes Internet safety.

The importance of education in this context cannot be overemphasised. It is essential that children, young people and parents are educated as to the risks that can be found online and that parents and teachers are supported in explaining these issues to children. In this regard, there are a range of tools available online to assist parents in managing internet access.

One important initiative in this regard brought forward by my Department is the development of the website called www.makeITsecure.ie which seeks to promote best practice in relation to many issues arising from the use of the Internet. This campaign, which was developed with industry, provides information in relation to the use of ICT by children. The Department has also engaged in a number of EU initiatives on this subject, including Council Conclusions on the protection of children in the digital world in 2011, and continues to play an important role in discussions in the Council of Europe.

While my Department does not have the lead role in relation to the specific issue of cyber-bullying, it works closely with other relevant Government Departments on this issue and the use of the Internet and ICT generally. Earlier this year, the Department of Education and Skills published an action plan on addressing certain cyber issues, including specific measures on cyber-bullying and in September published 'Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools'. I welcome these initiatives and hope that they will assist in addressing the challenges associated with cyber bullying.