20 November 2012

Children’s Minister meets Facebook to discuss cyber-bullying and internet safety

Minister Fitzgerald calls on Latvian authorities to investigate lack of safeguards applying to contentious ‘ask.fm’ website

Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Children and; Youth Affairs has this morning met with Facebook management to discuss online safeguards for children given recent concerns over cyber-bullying and internet safety

The Minister met with Simon Millner, Policy Director for Facebook in Ireland and the UK. The meeting took place ahead of the Digital Youth international symposium which takes place today at the Science Gallery in Dublin.

Minister Fitzgerald welcomed “the child-focussed and user-friendly safeguards and supports which Facebook have put in place to protect children and respond to concerns over cyber-bullying and inappropriate online behavior.”

Following the meeting the Minister expressed “her concern that certain other websites popular among Irish teenagers do not include the same safeguards.”

The Minister made specific reference to the contentious ‘ask.fm’ website which has come to attention in Ireland in recent weeks due to its use as a platform for cyber-bullying.

Minister Fitzgerald has this morning stated that she intends to ask the Latvian authorities to investigate lack of safeguards applying to contentious ‘ask.fm’ website which is based in that country. Minister Fitzgerald is also to ask her colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, to do likewise.

Addressing the Digital Youth Symposium, Minister Fitzgerald spoke of “the increasing centrality of digital media in our children’s lives.”

“New technologies have opened a world of opportunity for our young people. Opportunities which should be accentuated. But it also brings risks which must be mitigated.”

The Minister told the Symposium that “in seeking to respond to cyber-bullying, we should seek to start by addressing bullying in the round. This requires a whole school-and-community approach to address the underlying factors.”

Minister Fitzgerald said that she has been working on the issue of bullying over recent months stating: “Earlier this year the Minister for Education and I established the National Anti-Bullying Forum, while last year I published new Children First guidelines which recognised, for the first time, bullying and specifically cyber-bullying as child protection concerns.”

The Minister said she expects to receive the report of the National Anti-Bullying Forum working group before the end of the year.