I think that the comments made by new Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols linking social networking sites and teenage suicides are completely wrong. Costigan has already said why, but there are a few things I'd like to add.
Firstly, it's not as though Facebook invented bullying. As I well know, it was alive and kicking, and I mean kicking literally, in the 1980s for me. I will never, ever, forget the feeling of isolation and ostracisation I felt and I would never want anyone else to go through it. From the daubing of ink on my coat, to making certain animal noises whenever I approached, to calling names which really, really hurt, my first three years of high school were an absolute nightmare. I felt the effects on my confidence for a long time. I honestly did at times want to throw myself off a cliff.
I think we've all seen arguments blow up online which get all out of perspective, but in terms of social networking sites being used as instruments of bullying, then it's likely that the people who are using them are bullying their victims in real life as well. We've seen it with other forms of technology. Way back nine years ago when I was first involved in helping Cllr Marilyne McLaren stand for the Lib Dems in Edinburgh South, she was working on ways to combat text message bullying and now in her role as Convener of Education, Children and Families in Edinburgh, she has ensured that guidance on the use of mobile phones has been brought in.
I think one good thing about kids having fairly unfettered access to the internet is that it's also a whole load easier for them to get hold of help from organisations such as BullyingUK. They reckon they support half a million people a year on a budget of just £50,000. There was nothing like that back when I needed it almost 30 years ago and it's a vital resource for kids when their school or their parents either can't or won't do anything to help them and for those parents who do want to support their child.