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Mother of Co Tyrone cyber-bullying victim welcomes funding for research

Mandy Trowbridge lost her daughter Elle to suicide as a result of cyber-bullying. Picture by Hugh Russell
Marie Louise McConville

A Co Tyrone mother-of-three who lost her teenage daughter to suicide as a result of cyber-bullying has welcomed funding for a major new research project.

Mandy Trowbridge said it was a "breath of fresh air to see that people are realising how important" the issue is.

She was welcoming €290,000 allocated to Stranmillis University College in Belfast for a European cyber-bullying project.

Her daughter Elle (16), an award-winning show jumper, died by suicide at the family home in Killyclogher outside Omagh in April after suffering abuse online from strangers.

First targeted at the age of 11, she began to self-harm and was diagnosed with depression at 14.

After receiving further vile messages online, Elle took her own life one month after she had celebrated her 16th birthday.

Following the tragedy her mother has been campaigning to make the online world a safer place for young people.

Dr Noel Purdy, director of research and scholarship at Stranmillis, will now lead a two-year `Blurred Lives' project, working closely with four other European anti-bullying experts.

The study, which will focus on young people in five regions of the EU, aims to explore how they understand, experience and respond to cyber-bullying.

It also aims to provide accessible, up-to-date resources for teachers, pupils and parents/carers, and will make recommendations to social networking providers.

The funding has been secured from the Erasmus+ Strategic Partnerships Fund.

Dr Purdy said: "With such an experienced international team involved, I am confident that the outcomes of the Blurred Lives project will improve the lives of many hundreds of young people in schools right across Europe."

Ms Trowbridge said it is important for children to be involved in the research.

"They are the ones living in the middle of it and cyber-bullying has become very normalised within today culture."

She added that social network providers must be "at the top of their game".

"Often social media is a platform to allowing bullying, harmful comments and humiliation to our very precious children, who mentally are not fit to cope with this 24 hour torment," she said.

"I would love for the bullying experts, social media providers and most importantly the children of today to come together and tackle this problem head on."

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