A community garda based in West Cork has urged people to take action if they are a victim of cyberbullying and for people to be aware of their own behaviour online.
Garda Damian White spoke of the increasingly serious issue of cyberbullying during a webinar hosted by Darrara Community Centre.
He said the issue is being faced by not just young people, but by everyone who uses the internet.
During a time where online activity has increased, Garda White advised those who experience cyberbullying not to reply to the bully, but to instead keep the messages as proof, to tell someone they trust, and to block the sender.
He said that bullying should never be ignored as the problem will continue and develop and that while people doing the bullying may often see it as banter, the victim “may be severely affected by their actions”.
He also recommended reporting the problem if it arises on a social media platform.
“Various internet companies cannot stop everything being posted but once it is reported to them, they have a duty of care to take it down,” he said.
Garda White spoke of privacy and people's 'digital fingerprint', warning people that once something is posted, it can be copied and altered as it has been posted publicly for people to see.
“Your internet connection can be used to trace your behaviour, when any of us post, or comment, or push out an email.
“These rules apply to everybody, not just those under 18, so for us, we need to show a good example,” he said.
He said that hiding behind a screen does not absolve people of their personal responsibility about what they type and post.
“We all have a moral compass that makes us aware of what is either right or wrong and our actions will always affect the lives of other people, and showing respect should be a cornerstone of our behaviour,” he said.
Garda White reminded people that while we might need someone to turn to during this difficult time, strangers on the internet are not to be trusted or treated as friends.
“In the real world, having friends can be vital as we endure a difficult time, but in the online world, a friend is only a term used by social media companies to describe a contact. We should only accept our real-world friends as online friends,” he said