In recent years cyberbullying has overtaken traditional forms of bullying, with 12% of children now experiencing cyberbullying compared to 9% face-to-face (Net Children Go Mobile, 2014).
Cyberbullying is a form of bullying, and can have a significant impact on young people’s mental health and wellbeing and can leave them feeling isolated and lonely. It is critical therefore that teachers and professionals understand cyberbullying and know how to prevent and respond to cyberbullying incidents.
Although it often happens outside of school cyberbullying can have a significant impact on the school community.
Teachers and professionals need to be aware of the forms that cyberbullying can take, and the characteristics of cyberbullying. Forms can include threats and intimidation, harassment, vilification, ostracizing and peer rejection, impersonation and deliberate public sharing of private content. The use of technology in cyberbullying means that there are some significant characteristics that differ from bullying that takes place in physical spaces and teachers need to be aware of these characteristics, why people cyberbully and the impact of being bullied.
Teachers should also be made aware of the school’s policy on tackling bullying, how the school addresses prevention and responds to incidents.
It is a great approach for teachers and professionals to be proactive in discussing cyberbullying with pupils; how it occurs, why it occurs, and the consequences of such behaviour. The more the issue is made visible the more people feel safe to discuss and identify incidents. Everyone in the school community should be aware of what cyberbullying is, that it does have an impact, and what their responsibilities are in their use of technology.
This whole school community approach will promote mutual respect and trust which can help reduce cyberbullying incidents through creating a kind and respectful culture both online and offline.
Watch our YouTube playlist we’ve put together for Stand Up to Bullying Day 2016 that includes films that can be used to promote respect and kindness online.
When cyberbullying happens, it’s important that young people are empowered to seek help and staff know how to respond.
It’s important to make sure that teachers know who to go to in the school or organisation if they have concerns about cyberbullying incidents. This may be a head of year/department, a member of the senior leadership team, or a designated staff member.
Young people need to know where to raise concerns too. Publicising a range of reporting routes, including anonymous routes, will also help encourage young people to take an active role in raising concerns about cyberbullying.
Once cyberbullying has been reported or identified, appropriate support will need to be provided to the person being bullied. Students should be advised to never reply to upsetting messages or images. Instead, they should keep any evidence and report the incident.
A simple step is understanding the reporting mechanisms on different sites and services so educational professionals can support pupils in making a report. Childnet’s How to make a report resource provides details for how to report on sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube.
Educational Professionals can also experience cyberbullying. If this occurs they should report incidents appropriately and seek support.
Schools will be able to find more information about how to understand, prevent and respond to cyberbullying in Childnet’s Cyberbullying Guidance for schools. Produced with the Government Equalities Office the free guidance provides important information and advice which will support schools across the UK. More information can be found at www.childnet.com/cyberbullying-guidance.