Life

Marie Louise McConville: We all have a part to play in stopping cyber-bullying

Co Tyrone schoolgirl, Elle Trowbridge, who took her own life in April after being targeted online by cyber bullies

It is deeply regrettable that the world has become such a mean place.

I remember in the past when there was talk of a time ahead where technology would evolve so much that the world would be brought closer together. As a result, or horizons would be broadened and our futures would look brighter.

Unfortunately, fast forward a few years and yes, technology has indeed evolved and yes, the world does seem like a smaller place but we have also found ourselves living in fear of a shadowy online world where the tap of a key can tear someone's life apart.

I would hazard a guess and say that most of us, at some point, have been the target of vicious words online.

We all know about these faceless, cowardly so-called keyboard trolls who take great pleasure in targeting anyone and everyone they can and give no thought as to the consequences.

When it first happened to me I remember feeling upset. However, now if I come across such negativity directed at myself, I simply delete and move on, forgetting all about the sad individuals on the other side of the screen who clearly need to find a hobby.

Having been a working journalist for 15 years now, I've seen and heard some awful things. There have been stories which have stayed with me, have brought a tear to my eye and some which I have had to work hard to forget.

However, none have been as heart-breaking as the story of a beautiful young girl called Elle Trowbridge, who took her own life in April at the age of 16 after she had been targeted online by cyber bullies.

Having interviewed her mother, Mandy earlier this month, I have not been able to get Elle's story off my mind.

All I can think about is how on earth someone could be so mean and so evil as to send a child of 11-years-old horrible messages.

I find it so hard to believe that there are such vindictive people in the world but apparently there are and not just a few.

Elle, from Co Tyrone, was targeted on three social networking services and apps from the ages of 11 to 16.

While some messages were of a bullying nature, others told Elle to self-harm and take her own life.

In the end, despite putting up a brave battle and despite her family doing all they could to help and support the talented show jumper, she was effectively bullied to death.

It really is just devastating to think about how such a young, promising life was stolen when really it had only just begun.

Heartbroken over the death of her only daughter, Mandy Trowbridge is now campaigning to make social networking safer for children and young people.

She has bravely spoken out about the issue in the hope that some good can come of Elle's death, whether that is making someone think twice about sending a message or prompting a child being targeted to seek help.

As a journalist, I hope to be able to do all I can to help Mandy on her journey.

Of course, this week, we have seen how anyone can fall victim to these faceless cowards.

A number of stars, including singer Ed Sheeran and actress Kym Marsh, have reportedly quit Twitter over so-called trolls while American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson has been applauded for sending a sassy reply to a troll who had targeted her about her weight - and fair play to her for that.

Unfortunately, not all users are able to respond in such heroic ways and many end up vulnerable and distressed.

I don't know when the world became such a horrible place but I really hope from the bottom of my heart that young Elle Trowbridge will be the last young person to lose their life in such a senseless way.

I wish Mandy Trowbridge every best wish on her journey to make the online world safer and as a mother and a journalist I think we should all endeavour to do what we can to protect our children whether it means internet providers being held more accountable or supporting a change to the law to bring about more prosecutions.

We all have a part to play - including schools, the PSNI and public representatives - and we all have a responsibility to know what our children are up to on their devices.

Let's take charge. Every big change starts with a small step - let's make a start and let's remember Elle as we do it.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It's summer – so how would you like to win a meal for two at the multi-award winning Hudson Entertainment Complex in Belfast?

Situated in the heart of the city centre at Gresham Street, the Hudson Bar is one of the city's most popular bars and eateries.

Located just around the corner from CastleCourt Shopping Centre, The Hudson is the perfect spot to head for a bite to eat after a day's shopping.

The bar is famed for its hot wings and even has its own dedicated Bada Wings kitchen.

Offering everything from ribs and stew to buttermilk chicken and fish and chips - the menu at The Hudson is an all round hit.

And, you certainly will be spoilt for choice when it comes to drinks as The Hudson offers a huge array of beers, ales and whiskey, including the famous Danny Boy Whiskey as well as a cocktail menu.

The Hudson Entertainment complex offers live music every night so why not pay a visit and enjoy a fab night out?

Further information about The Hudson Bar is available online at www.hudsonbelfast.com

To celebrate summer, I have three vouchers, each for meal for two at The Hudson, to give away to three lucky readers.

If you fancy winning a voucher, simply email your name, address and telephone number – along with the answer to the question below – to competitions@irishnews.com

Closing date for entries is Tuesday, July 18 , 2017

(Q) Where in Belfast is The Hudson Bar located?

Entrants must be 18 or over

Normal Irish News Rules Apply

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

What's Hot?

August Craft Month - Northern Ireland's fabulous festival of craft will next month feature hundreds of events including exhibitions, open studios, bus tours, artist talks, and more than 90 workshops. More info at www.augustcraftmonth.com

Renew - Try the new Peptide Night Recovery Cream Oil from Elemis. This extraordinary new cream-oil helps support the skin's natural processes so you wake up looking revitalised, nourished and healthy.

Animated Fun - Lightning McQueen arrives back on the big screen this weekend in new animated adventure, Cars 3. Expect Fun.

So Not!

Fed Up - I am sick to the back teeth reading about Love Island. Why is so much being reported about this ridiculous excuse for entertainment?

Quit - Irish actor Rory Cowan has announced he has quit Mrs Brown's Boys after 26 years. The 57-year-old said he had not been happy for some time.

Gone - Iconic shampoo brand Timotei will soon disappear from shop shelves for good, as it has been discontinued. Oh dear.

-----------------

Competition

The winners of the Dead Letters competition are Florence Stewart, from Larne, Lisa Young, from Belfast, John McCloskey, from Drumahoe, Bernie O'Kane, from Claudy, and Annette McCullagh, from Omagh

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Easy Peasy Recipe

This week's Easy Peasy Recipe is Frozen Blackberry Fool

You will need:

300g blackberries

juice from 1 lemon

85g golden caster sugar

300ml double cream

shortbread biscuits, to serve

To Make:

In a bowl, mash the blackberries with the lemon juice and half the sugar.

In another bowl, whip the cream and mix with the remaining sugar.

Combine the two mixtures and empty into a container and freeze for 12 hours.

Scoop into glasses and serve with shortbread on the side.

Do you have an Easy Peasy recipe you would like to share?

Are you the queen of quiches, magnificent at muffins or can you turn out some nice scones?

If so, then we want to hear from you.

You can send your name, address, contact number and recipe (plus photo if possible) to:

Easy Peasy Recipes,

Marie Louise McConville,

Irish News

113-117 Donegall Street,

Belfast,

BT1 2GE

or

m.mcconville@irishnews.com

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe from just £1 for the first month to get full access

Today's horoscope

Horoscope


See a different horoscope: