TEENAGERS and children in Limerick are getting involved in a dangerous online practice of self-harming and posting the injuries on social media.
Pat Forde, who runs Stop the Bully Ireland, and teaches martial arts to young people for self-confidence and defence, told the Limerick Post he has “become aware of a very serious trend amongst young people in Limerick”.
“I’ve been told about it and seen it now from a lot of sources, so it’s not a couple of isolated incidents.”
“In Limerick city and the surrounding areas, there have been a lot of cases of young people self harming and then posting photos of how they have hurt themselves on social media such as Snapchat and TicTok.
Mr Forde says this trend has “resulted in some kids getting badly hurt, but the most worrying aspect of this is that many kids are copying it due to peer pressure”.
He said the trend has been brought to his attention by parents in Limerick and also by some schools.
“Most parents don’t realise how much of an effect peer pressure will have on their kids and there are a lot of kids engaging in this self-harming behaviour as they are seeing their friends do it.
“There’s a culture of fear around all of this but we need to stop blaming and start taking responsibility. We need to talk to our children about online safety but not in a confrontational way.
“I advise parents the best time to talk to your children is when they’re relaxed, maybe after some fun family activity. Don’t make it a lecture.”
Mr Forde says parents need to talk to their kids about groups that they are in online.
“All kids that I meet in schools are in groups causing issues. Many are in groups with strangers and worryingly a lot of kids are being contacted by adults online. This is made more likely as most are kids are also lying about their ages online and using exaggerated ages.”
StoptheBully.ie is a national service that helps schools prevent bullying issues and works with groups experiencing bullying and related social issues.
Mr Forde established the service in 2012 and has since a trained as a mentor in counteracting bullying, as well as working with more than 35,000 school students all over Ireland.
“Parents need to take responsibility for their kids’ use of social media at home. I urge all parents to reconsider their decisions to give young kids access to social media,” said Pat.
“In the city I have worked in classrooms where kids from second and third class have their own social media accounts. This is far too young.
“Under no circumstances should phones and other devices with social media be kept in bedrooms at night. This needs to stop now.
“The biggest obstacle I have in my work is parental attitudes as many parents seem to think that bullying and cyberbullying just won’t happen to their kids. This complacency can and does lead to heartbreaking consequences,” he said.
To help educate Limerick families to the dangers of bullying and cyberbullying, He is running a free Stop The Bully evening for parents in the Strand Hotel on Thursday, May 25.