Monday, November 5, 2012

Fr. John Joe Duffy: Impassioned plea for Regulation of Social Networking on the Internet to Tackle the Cyber-Bullies for Young People in Ireland


A Donegal priest has made an impassioned plea for regulation of social networking on the internet and for young people to re-think their use of it.

Fr John Joe Duffy was speaking at the funeral in St Mary's Church, Stranorlar, of Erin Gallagher who killed herself, allegedly as a result of bullying and abuse she was receiving on a popular social networking site ask.fm.

Fr Duffy urged students to stop using websites such as ask.fm and called on the Government to regulate social media websites. The schoolgirl was found dead in her home last weekend, having warned online bullies that she would kill herself.

Addressing the many contemporaries of Erin Gallagher in the 300-strong congregation he asked them, “if it is necessary to have ask.fm in your lives,” in the light of, “the consequences of what such discussions can do to some people.”

“I am asking you to seriously think about going home today and to delete ask.fm and agree never to frequent that site or any other sites,” he pleaded. "I am asking students to go home and cancel their ask.fm accounts and not to use other such websites - we have seen the pain and I am asking you now to take action."

Fr Duffy said Erin's mother did not want any other family to suffer the heartache she was going through. "Let this be a day for change in our society so that good will be the ultimate end from this terrible suffering," he said.

And he advised friends who were mourning the dead girl to be, “patient with yourselves and allow yourselves to grieve and don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings to your family, to your teachers, to me or to the other priests and indeed to your friends.”

Turning to the lack of oversight of the content of social networking sites, Fr Duffy said that the authorities, “may hide behind technical and other difficulties, but these sites can be regulated and they must.”

And he called on parents to familiarise themselves with social networking websites sites and with whatever safeguards they can use, “and to act in the way that is most necessary to help protect your children.”

Fr Duffy went on to call for a change in focus of suicide support services towards prevention, saying, “As a country, we are very good at aftercare but we fail miserably on prevention.”

He said that excellent support shown since Erin Gallagher’s death from professional services but asked where that support was beforehand.

“Have we the resources and personnel necessary to man the frontline with regard to prevention, have we the national policies in place?” he asked. “Have we the guidelines for intervention and prevention to avoid a terrible and unnecessary tragedy like this in the future?” he continued.

“I am asking all agencies in Ireland responsible for the care of children to finally come together and formulate a comprehensive policy of prevention and support for helping individuals so this day will never have to dawn on another parent. We are only here today because society has failed Erin Gallagher, has failed a 13-year-old child.”

Fr Duffy said he was challenging those charged with the care of children, “to assess whether their assessments and responses are fit for purpose. I am asking all agencies of the State responsible for the care of children to formulate a comprehensive policy of prevention and support," he said.