“Cyberbullying” is the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) particularly mobile phones and the internet, to deliberately upset someone.”
Cyberbullying is becoming more prevalent, with the increasing use of modern technology. Mobile, internet and wireless technologies have increased the pace of communication and brought benefits to users worldwide. But their popularity provides increasing opportunity for misuse through ‘cyberbullying’, with worrying consequences. It’s crucial that children and young people, who are particularly adept at adapting to new technology, use their mobiles and the internet safely and positively – and are aware of the consequences of misuse. As technology develops, bullying techniques can evolve to exploit it. School staff, parents and young people have to be constantly vigilant and work together to prevent this and tackle it wherever it appears. Cyberbullying is a method of bullying and should be viewed and treated the same as “real world” bullying.
Current DfE Guidence on Bullying – “Preventing and Tackling Bullying: Advice for School Leaders and Governing Bodies” November 2014
Types of Cyberbullying
Research commissioned by the Anti-Bullying Alliance from Goldsmiths College, University of London, identifies seven categories of cyberbullying:
- Text message bullying involves sending unwelcome texts that are threatening or cause discomfort.
- Picture/video clip bullying via mobile phone cameras is used to make the person being bullied feel threatened or embarrassed, with images usually sent to other people. ‘Happy slapping’ involves filming and sharing physical attacks.
- Phone call bullying via mobile phone uses silent calls or abusive messages. Sometimes the bullied person’s phone is stolen and used to harass others, who then think [the phone owner is responsible. As with all mobile phone bullying, perpetrators often disguise their numbers, sometimes using someone else’s phone to avoid being identified.
- Email bullying makes use of email to send bullying or threatening messages, often with an invented pseudonym or using someone else’s name to pin the blame on them.
- Chat-room bullying involves sending menacing or upsetting responses to children or young people when they are in a web-based chat room.
- Bullying through Instant Messaging (IM) is an internet-based form of bullying where children and young people can be sent unpleasant messages as they conduct real-time conversations online.
- Bullying via websites includes the use of defamatory web logs (blogs), personal websites, social networking and online personal polling sites.
The effects Of Cyberbullying
- Cyberbullying can take place 24/7 (creating a feeling of “no escape” for the vicitim) and is not restricted by location e.g. Globally
- Electronic content is very hard to control once it has been posted and can never be guaranteed to be removed totally from circulation – this can be very upsetting to victimsas they can never be sure who has viewed images/content about them.
- Bullies can take actions to attempt to be anonymous and can feel “distanced” from the incident – They are often unaware of the laws regarding harassment and the fact online activity can be traced via “digital footprints”
- “Bystanders” can easily become perpetrators by passing on videos/images/content or by videoing incidents such as “Happy Slapping” – they then become ‘accessories’
- Cyberbullying can sometimes occur unintentionally – often due to a lack of awareness/empathy e.g. “It was only a joke”
- Cyberbullying enables harassment and upset to take place across generations – age/size is not an issue (Child to child, Child to adult, Adult to adult, Adult to child) due to technology removing some of the power and size issues thast would otherwise prevent it from occuring.
- Cyberbullying incidents can be used as evidence – e.g. text messages, messenger conversations, screen shots etc. It is important that this evidence is kept, not deleted and the victim does not reply.
What does the Law say about Cyberbullying and what should schools do?
There are a number of statutory obligations on schools with regard to behaviour which establish clear responsibilities to respond to cyberbullying. In particular section 89 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006:
- provides that every school must have measures to encourage good behaviour and prevent all forms of bullying amongst pupils. These measures should be part of the school’s behaviour policy which must be communicated to all pupils, school staff and parents
- gives headteachers the ability to ensure that pupils behave when they are not on school premises or under the lawful control of school staff.
Headteachers have a specific statutory power to discipline pupils for poor behaviour outside of the school premises. Section 89(5) of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 gives headteachers the power to regulate pupils’ conduct when they are not on school premises and are not under the lawful control or charge of a member of school staff (this legislation does not apply to independent schools). This can relate to any bullying incidents occurring anywhere off the school premises (including online). Where bullying outside school is reported to school staff, it should be investigated and acted on. The headteacher should also consider whether it is appropriate to notify the police of the actions taken against a pupil. If the misbehaviour could be criminal or poses a serious threat to a member of the public, the police should always be informed.
Under the Children Act 1989 a bullying incident should be addressed as a child protection concern when there is ‘reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm’. Where this is the case, the school staff should report their concerns to the Education Safeguards Team. Even where safeguarding is not considered to be an issue, schools may need to draw on a range of external services to support the pupil who is experiencing bullying, or to tackle any underlying issue which has contributed to a child doing the bullying.
Although bullying in itself is not a specific criminal offence in the UK, it is important to bear in mind that some types of harassing or threatening behaviour or communications could be a criminal offence, for example under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the Malicious Communications Act 1988, the Communications Act 2003, and the Public Order Act 1986. If school staff feel that an offence may have been committed they should seek assistance from the police.
Key Advice to Children and Young People on how to deal with Cyberbullying
- Always respect others – think about what you say online and what images you send/post
- Remember that anything you publish online can be made public very quickly and you will never be sure who may have seen it. Once something is posted you lose control
- Treat your password like a toothbrush – never share it with anyone and only give your personal information like mobile phone number or email address to trusted friends
- Learn how to block or report online Bullies or anyone behaving badly!
- Don’t retaliate or reply!
- Save the evidence – text messages, online conversation, pictures etc
- Always make sure you tell:
- an adult you trust or contact someone like Childline
- The service provider e.g. website, mobile phone company etc
- The school or the police
- If you see Cyberbullying going on the support the victim and REPORT the bullying – to the website or school
Key Advice for Parents/Carers on how to deal with Cyberbullying
- Your child is just as likely to be a bully as to be a target. Be alert to your child being upset after using the internet/phones – they may be secretive, change relationships with friends
- If your child is a victim of cyberbullying, remember, it’s not their fault so removing the technology could make them less likely to speak to you in the future.
- Talk to your child and understand how they are using the internet and their phone
- Use safety tools and parental controls – if your not sure how contact your service provider. Please note tools are not always 100% effective
- Remind your child not to retaliate
- Work with the school to resolve the issue if other pupils are involved
- Keep any evidence of Cyberbullying – emails, Online Conversations, texts, screen prints of sites/chat messages – try and include time/date etc
- Report the Cyberbullying:
- Contact the service provider to report the user and remove content
- Contact the school so they could take action if it involves another pupils
- If the cyberbullying is serious and a potential criminal offence has been committed then consider contacting the police.