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Speech by Frances Fitzgerald T.D. Minister for Children & Youth Affairs at the Launch of Action Plan on Bullying

 

(Check Against Delivery)

 

29th January 2013

 
Today is a significant step in the Government’s absolute commitment to address the serious impact which bullying continues to have on our children. The Action Plan on Bullying is the first of its kind in Ireland.

Bullying should never be a part of growing up. Growing up is challenging enough. But it happens. It’s happening right now, somewhere in this country. Probably in more than one place and by more than one method.

That’s the grim reality, and it’s  not an exaggeration. 

We have all heard the tragic cases of some young people.

Some of them are bullied in school.

Bullying follows others home.

Cyber bullying follows them everywhere: on their phone, on their PC; in public and in the dark watches of the night.

The advances in technology provide huge opportunities for our young people but it also provides bullies with a whole new sphere in which to victimise and damage. And damage they do. The evidence shows bullying can have a terrible and corrosive impact.

 On confidence.
 On self-esteem.
 On capacity to learn.
 On capacity to live.

Research commissioned by my Department shows that 24% of 9 to 17 year olds report being bullied.

Research published last year by Cotter and McGilloway show that 17% of 12 to 18 year olds have been bullied online.

Research by GLEN states that 58% of lesbian and gay students have been the victim of homophobic bullying.

All of that research adds up to a reality we can neither ignore nor hope will solve itself. Public condemnation doesn’t begin to address the issue, not least because one of the most striking aspects of bullying is the lack of awareness of those involved.

Often the victim doesn’t realise they are being bullied.

Often the bully doesn’t recognise their own actions as bullying.

We have, however, made some progress and the fact that we are launching an Action Plan on tackling bullying shows how high up on the national agenda this issue has moved.

I welcome the recommendations of the group and I pay tribute to all their work in developing this plan.

My Department is committed to protecting children and protecting childhood.

We named serious bullying as a child protection issue in Children First

We brought in Retail Ireland Childrenswear Guidelines on appropriate clothing for children.

We are developing a new Child and Family Support Agency.

And today we commit to developing a new National Framework for Anti-Bullying.

This Action Plan highlights the critical role of schools in dealing with bullying, regardless of where or why it takes place. But, because bullying is no longer limited to classrooms, we have to have a broader approach also.

That means making sure that wherever young people are, they’re protected by safety guidelines. A clearly understood anti-bullying Framework.

It means making sure that wherever young people are, they are supported by an anti-bullying ethos. 

As recommended by this Action Plan, we will put in place an anti-bullying framework to support young people, parents, schools, teachers and youth workers.

We will give statutory footing to Children First Guidelines.

We will provide a website which draws together some of the information available online to help parents, children and teachers. A wealth of information is available on this issue, but no one on-line source pulls together the evidence and best practice advice from the organisations and researchers engaged in the international campaign to beat cyberbullying.

Organisations right around the country are doing fantastic work in this area but what we need is a single online space which for the first time ever draws together practical advice from multiple sources and offers information on combating cyber-bullying to young people, parents and those working with children and young people.

That provides, at a single click, the possible support to parents and young people -  where parents can learn about ask.fm, facebook, spillit and twitter; and their privacy policies and settings.

Somewhere youth workers can go to find a video they should show to their youth group about the effects of bullying.

Somewhere young people can go to find out how they can get help.

We will need buy-in from the various organisations who are already doing so much in this area and by co-operating, we can collectively develop a dedicated online support for parents, teenagers, children, teachers and youth workers.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the organisations we work with will continue to raise awareness and provide supports for young people and parents.

We must, and we will, do all we can to support victims, to beat victimisers and name bullying for what it is.

It’s not a rite of passage. It’s not a crucible out of which children emerge strengthened. It is not a normal part of growing up.
It is an instrument of destruction. No more. No less.

It must and will be challenged, and when it expresses itself in some newer form, it must and will be challenged there, too.

Thank you.

 

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