A look back at the World Anti-Bullying Forum 2019 in Ireland

  • Awareness
  • 13/01/2020
  • Irish Safer Internet Centre

Dublin City University was home to the largest ever gathering of experts, educators, parents and policy makers, to discuss and share ideas on the best possible methods to tackle bullying, cyberbullying and promote online safety at the World Anti-Bullying Forum 2019.

Close to 1,000 participants attended the World Anti-Bullying Forum 2019 for a three-day programme aiming to broaden understanding of bullying, harassment, discrimination, ostracism and other forms of degrading treatment and violence among children and youth and to spread knowledge to practitioners, researchers and decision makers.

The event was organised by the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre at DCU, in partnership with FRIENDS, International Bullying Prevention Association and UNESCO and included contributions from: Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, Partnerships; Antigone Davis, Global Head of Safety Facebook Instagram; Dr. Geoffrey Shannon, Government Special Rapporteur on Child Protection; Liam O'Brien, CEO Vodafone Foundation; Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, EU Parliament Coordinator for children's Rights; Mary Mitchell O'Connor TD, Minister of State; Dr. Niall Muldoon, Ombudsman for Children.

Webwise was delighted to attend the three-day event. Here are some key takeaways from the 2019 World Anti-Bullying Forum.

A whole school approach

Over the three days of the World Anti-Bullying Forum, academics, researchers, child safety experts and policy makers echoed the importance and effectiveness of a whole school approach to tackling bullying. Some considerations for an effective whole school approach include:

  • engaging parents through talks and meetings;
  • getting them involved in homework;
  • involving the whole school staff and community, not just teachers;
  • engaging students by using videos;
  • creating and agreeing online codes;
  • and encouraging older students to act as digital champions.

Researchers Anne Marie Kavanagh and Lars Dietrich also reinforced the importance of creating a positive school climate. In addition, researcher and meta-analyst Hannah Gaffney, who presented findings from her review on the effectiveness of school-based bullying prevention programmes noted that research also indicates peer-led initiatives as a highly effective approach to tackling bullying in schools.

Parents need more support

During the ISPCC Vodafone panel discussion on online well-being, experts and researchers shared their views on how to best support people online. The role of parents in online safety and how we can support them was echoed throughout the discussion and supported by research which clearly indicates parents need more support in the area of online safety.

The "Cybersafe Perceptions Survey 2019" by DCU Survey demonstrated that because of fear, uncertainty around the issues and lack of technical knowledge, 75 per cent of parents do not intervene in their child's online activities.

It's never too late to start a conversation with your child about online safety. The Webwise Parents Online Safety Hub is a great source of advice, information and support for parents: webwise.ie/parents/

Child-centred approaches

Páraic Walsh gave an engaging presentation on learning from complaints made to the Ombudsman for Children's Office Ireland about the management of bullying in schools. The findings highlighted the benefits of child-centred approaches to bullying and suggest that programmes focusing on building resilience can be very effective in addressing bullying.

Prevalence of sexting in Ireland

Dr Mairéad Foody (Principal Investigator of a large-scale national study on cyberbullying and sexting in young people – Anti-Bullying Centre) shared findings from her recent study on the prevalence of sexting among Irish teens.
"24 per cent of young people between the age of 15 and 18 said they had shared a sexual image with someone by choice. Most said this was with someone their own age, or someone they were in a relationship with."

When asked if anyone had had a sexual image of themselves shared non-consensually – of that same age group, 13 per cent said that had happened once or more.

The findings also raised questions on how parents and teachers can be more supportive in this area. The research indicated that teens are very unlikely to speak to a parent and even less likely to go to a teacher if an intimate image of themselves has been shared online. The research highlights a need for open communications on the topics of consent and image-sharing.

For more information on how schools can support students and address the topic, visit webwise.ie/lockers/

Parents should also have regular and open communications with their child. Get started at webwise.ie/parents/talking-to-your-teen-about-sexting/

Include young people in the conversation

Webwise Youth Panellist and fifth year student Eiman Elsir wrapped up the Vodafone/ISPCC guest panel discussion with a strong reminder to listen to young people and respect their voices!

Webwise provides a lot of useful information for parents and teachers on how to effectively tackle bullying, take a look at the SIC's resources at www.webwise.ie/teachers/resources/ or visit the Parent Hub at www.webwise.ie/parents/

If you are a young person in Ireland and if you want to play your part, why not get involved in Webwise's Youth Training Programmes? For more information, visit www.webwise.ie/youth/

Webwise Youth Panellist Eiman shares her experience of participating in one of the panel discussions during the Forum.

"Getting a chance to have a discussion on safety online surrounded by fellow panellists who dedicate their work to the cause and in front of an audience who is equally as passionate, was very refreshing. It gave me hope that there are actually older people who are willing to solve the issues to do with online safety. The fellow panellists were so kind and welcoming  and really put me at ease, especially Maureen who ran the panel. Overall, the experience was amazing and I'd do it again!

"In my closing remarks I was asked what we should be doing to address online safety. I said that 1) We should have young people working with the organisations as all the work they're doing will impact us. 2) They must listen to our voices and opinions, we're equally as passionate as they are and we should be taken seriously. Lastly, 3) Have the young people be the faces of the brand and the new implementations being put out there. It can sound like a lecture if adults are talking to children about online safety, but coming from a peer it's a lot easier to digest."

Finally, as Dr. Susan Swearer said during the conference: "we need to promote kindness, bravery and positive psychological functioning to eradicate bullying".

For more information, visit the Webwise website.

Find out more information about the work of the Irish Safer Internet Centre (SIC) generally, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services on the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) portal, or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.

(Main photo source: Vodafone Ireland)

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