Jonathan Pugsley, father of the late Ciara who died by suicide seven weeks ago after being bullied online, is calling on the Government to make suicide prevention and cyberbullying awareness a priority.
Mr Pugsley said that figures show that there are three times more suicide cases than road traffic deaths in Ireland each year, and yet a huge amount of money is being spent on advertising and educating people on road safety while little is done to prevent suicide and to help those being bullied.
His words comes as the Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan calls on the Government to ensure bullying is a public health issue. A new report ‘Dealing with Bullying in Schools’ shows that along with homophobic bullying are the most prevalent forms of concerns for the children and young people surveyed.
It is estimated that more than 10,000 Irish schoolchildren find it difficult to go to school every day as a result of being bullied and at least 24% of primary-school students and 14% of post-primary school students have experienced bullying.
Ms Logan did say that blocking access to Ask.fm, which was used in the anonymous bullying of Ciara Pugsley and Erin Gallagher will not end cyberbullying.
Mr Pugsley said there is no news on the Garda investigation into Ciara’s online bullies, he believes the investigation could take a long time.
He said enough is not being done by the Irish Government to prevent anonymous posting. Mr Pugsley said he also does not accept Ask.fm’s comment that they are getting unfair criticism.
Mark Terebin, founder and chief executive of Ask.fm last week said, “Ask.fm is just a tool which helps people to communicate with each other, same as any other social network, same as phone, same as piece of paper and pen.
“Mass media is knocking on wrong door. It is necessary to go deeper and to find a root of a problem. It’s not about the site, the problem is about education, about moral values that were devaluated lately.”
Jonathan Pugsley said the anonymous nature of messages online are “dangerous and should not be allowed.” He said that Facebook do monitor their site and take responsibilty to take down inappropriate posts when reported.
Jonathan said the news of Erin Gallagher’s suicide in Donegal recently which had similarities to Ciara’s death was traumatic on the family and friends of Ciara. He said what is allowed to be posted on some websites is “horrendous” and leaves a “trail of destruction.”
Ciara Pugsley’s name and photo has appeared in numerous national publications over the past few weeks, and although it can be difficult for her family to see her associated with such terrible news, Mr Pugsley said the family are dealing with it “as long as something good comes out of this.” He said people need to understand that cyber bullying happens and has devastating effects on real families.
He said he understands counselling is ongoing for teenagers in the Manorhamilton area who were affected by Ciara’s death. He said he hopes that all the publicity and political pressure will bring about some “online standards” as well as bullying policies in schools.
A report by the National Anti-Bullying Forum working group is expected by the end of this year.