Friday 19 January 2018

Wexford woman tackles cyberbullying

By Esther Hayden

Carmel Walsh.
Carmel Walsh.
Carmel Walsh.

Wexford woman Carmel Walsh was a panellist at the recent Global Stop Cyberbullying Youth Summit in Dublin which was attended by the heads of all the major internet companies, including Facebook, Youtube, Google, Microsoft, AskFM, etc.

Through her schools programme I Me Mine, Carmel has been doing her bit to help parents tackle this modern-day scourge. She said it is vital that students and parents alike understand the dangers of cyber bullying.

'Last Saturday week I sat in the large conference room in Facebook's international HQ in Dublin. I was there as one of the panellists at the invitation of Parry Aftab, the founder of and the driving force behind The Global Stop Cyberbullying Youth Summit - Ireland 2015.

'I sat transfixed with a mixture of admiration and horror as I listened to Carol Todd. Carol is the mother of Amanda Todd, the young girl who died by suicide aged just 15 only days after posting a video on YouTube. She spoke heartrendingly about her daughter's sexual harassment and the bullying she endured both online and offline.

Carol Todd was a teacher by profession. By her own admission she should have been more 'clued in' as to what was happening in her daughter's world, especially her activities online. Sadly she didn't really until it was almost too late.

'Amanda was, in Carol's words, a 'perfect storm' teenager. She was sexually groomed and stalked by a social media predator who persuaded her to bare her breasts during an online chat, which unbeknownst to her he took a screenshot of. He then shared the screenshot amongst her friends online. She was subsequently mercilessly jeered and bullied online until it all became too much for her. She first of all attempted suicide by drinking bleach but was unsuccessful, and was then jeered online for her failure. However on October 10 2012 Amanda succeeded in ending her life.

'Carol Todd now spends her time travelling the globe speaking to child protection experts, parents and, more importantly, teenagers about the dangers that can lurk when you decide to access the World Wide Web without the adequate skill sets, and in the case of children, life skills.'

Carmel spends a great deal of her time running parents information nights and workshops in schools and youth clubs on cyberbullying and teaching life skills for the social media generation on best practice for staying safe online in a programme called I Me Mine.

'I would like nothing better for the workshops I deliver to be unnecessary', she said. 'It would be great if parents knew what their supervisory role should be and if children realised the sometimes dangerous consequences of their online activity. Sadly my experience to date has been quite the opposite.

'When I first started I Me Mine, I was invited into secondary schools. Then it was 6th class. This year I'm asked to speak to 4th class! I encounter 10-year-olds with Facebook accounts (minimum age is 13), 10-year-olds on Snapchat and Instagram sharing all kinds of personal information and pictures, and their parents are almost clueless. Sure a few may install parental controls, but take a look on YouTube and you'll find any amount of clips on how to disable these controls.

'If you hand over the keys of a powerful, exciting and dangerous car to your child and say 'right off you go out on the road to Dublin', then you'd better make sure that your child understands how to stay safe in this machine. 'You can't just rely on the car maker to keep your child safe, anymore then you should expect the social media sites to be their protector online.' For more information on Carmel's programme log onto\imemineschools.

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