Lucena Clinic Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service carry out research on staff’s experience of dealing with cyberbullying and online safety for children and young people

Technology has transformed our lives for the better but there are unique challenges associated with the internet particularly for children and adolescents who may be facing online hazards that they are not equipped to deal with and their carers may not be aware of.  In light of media reports of the destructiveoutcomes of cyberbullying and online harassment for young people’s mental health, a team of researchers at Lucena Clinic; Aoife Lonergan (Assistant Psychologist), Amy Moriarity (Trainee Clinical Psychologist, UCD), Prof. Fiona McNicholas (Consultant Psychiatrist), led by Principal Clinical Psychologist Triona Byrne,  recently conducted an online survey of Lucena clinic staff’s experience, practice and views on the issue of cyberbullying and the challenge of promoting internet safety for children. 

The literature suggests that young people and their families may not know how to stay safe on-line orto whom to report unsafe internet experience.The thinking behind the Lucena Clinic staff survey was that Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) staff may have a vital role in helping children to communicate about and learn from problematic internet experiences. However, little is known about staff experiences, training needs or their preferences for training resources about internet safety and cyberbullying.  The survey was launced on international internet safety day (February 11th 2014) and 90% of staff invited to particpaite gave their views. This resulted in a rich source of information and demonsrated that it was a relevent topic to study and address. 

Preliminary results indicate that cyberbullying is a common problem raised by children and teens attending the Lucena service. The majority of staff surveyed are concerned and willing to develop plans of care for the child and family that will promtote internet safety.  All the staff who completed the survey requested further training to equip them to be more knowledgeable  about ways to promote internet safety for children and  address cyberbullying.Staff expressed a strong preference for information/ resource packs to adviseand guide both caregivers and young people on internet safety and cyberbullying.

The preliminary findings of this study suggest that addressing cyberbullying and child internet safety should be a priority in CAMHS. Supporting and training CAMHS professionals to discuss internet safety with youngpeople or caregivers may be an opportunity to contribute to patient safety and wellbeing.  The next steps for the researchers is to analyse all the survey responses and feedback the results to staff with recommendations for design of a staff training module that also provides resources for children and carers.   

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