Legislation from Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs Robert Troy aims to make cyber-bullying a criminal offence.
Under the proposed legislation engaging in, assisting or encouraging cyber-bullying will become an offence.
Deputy Troy commented: “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.”
Speaking about the proposed legislation, Deputy Troy added that for the first time in Irish law, cyber-bullying would become a specific offence.
“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,” he explained.
“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.”
Deputy Troy concluded by saying that awareness campaigns and better education were essential to striking a balance in how cyber-bullying is dealt with, however, he added that “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,” he concluded.