Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

RCSI's ‘Be a Cyber Pal!' initiative launched as part of Safer Internet Day 2014

11 February 2014

The RCSI CyberPsychology Research Centre, which is part of the RCSI Institute of Leadership, has launched its ‘Be a Cyber Pal!' initiative as part of the Centre's participation in Safer Internet Day 2014 taking place today. The 'Cyber Pal' concept, which is based on solid and established cyberpsychological research findings, is in line with the theme of Safer Internet Day 2014, ‘Creating a Better Internet Together' and aims to improve behaviour online, particularly amongst children and young people.

‘Be a Cyber Pal!' encourages young people to follow seven steps to improve safety online including: ‘Don't be a bystander: be a Cyber Pal' and ‘Reach out to a trusted Cyber Pal when feeling lonely or down.' The initiative was developed by Mary Aiken, Director of the RCSI CyberPsychology Research Centre and Dr. Ciarán Mc Mahon, Research & Development Coordinator, RCSI CyberPsychology Research Centre.

Safer Internet Day which was launched by Ruairi Quinn TD, Minister for Education and Skills, is part of a global drive to promote a safer internet for all users, especially young people. The event is organised in Ireland by Webwise and aims to educate and raise awareness about protecting children online, so that they can responsibly enjoy the benefits of the internet, without compromising their safety and privacy. The focus of Safer Internet Day 2014 is to reach out to young people and encourage them to address the issue of cyber bullying themselves by leading awareness raising campaigns in their clubs, schools, and communities.

Mary Aiken Director of the RCSI CyberPsychology Research Centre said: ‘Youth empowerment and positive action lie at the centre of the ‘"Be a Cyber Pal!" protocol which aims to support the overall messaging of Safer Internet Day 2014 which is to promote safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, especially amongst children and young people across the world.'

‘The RCSI CyberPsychology Research Centre is delighted to partner with the Irish Safer Internet Day 2014 team to produce anti-cyberbullying messaging that is targeted, appropriate, empowering and most importantly academically grounded,' Mary concluded.

‘Being part of this initiative reflects a central aim of the RCSI CyberPsychology Research Centre, which is to produce evidence-based insight and advice in a fast-changing environment', added Dr. Ciarán Mc Mahon, Research & Development Coordinator, RCSI CyberPsychology Research Centre.

At the launch event for Safer Internet Day 2014 Minister Quinn also unveiled a new anti-cyber bullying school's kit, the #UP2US Anti-Bullying Kit, containing awareness raising material, a new teaching resource for dealing with the issue of cyber bullying through the curriculum in post primary schools and an innovative interactive poster initiative. The pack will challenge young people to find new ways to use the internet and social media to stand up to bullying and show solidarity with victims.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Quinn said, ‘This innovative education resource will support the efforts of schools to prevent bullying behaviour through the fostering and development of a positive culture and climate that is based on inclusivity and respect both in schools and in the online communities where children spend time. Effective practice includes prevention and awareness raising measures across all aspects of bullying and involves strategies to engage pupils in addressing problems when they arise. In particular, such strategies need to build empathy, respect and resilience in pupils.'

The ‘Net Children Go Mobile' report also released at the event has revealed that increased use of mobile devices have created new areas of risks such as increased levels of bullying and exposure to potentially harmful Internet content. The report showed that girls are more likely to be bullied online than boys and that new strategies are needed to ensure young people's safety and welfare in a post-desktop internet environment.

Founded in 1784, RCSI's mission is to develop healthcare leaders who make a difference worldwide. RCSI is a not-for-profit health sciences organisation which focuses on education and research to drive positive change in all areas of human health worldwide. RCSI is headquartered in Dublin and is a recognised College of the National University of Ireland.

Further information on ‘Be a Cyber Pal!' can be found at: http://webwise.ie/CyberPals.shtm