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‘Three Top Tips from Tom’ will be updated weekly with the best advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management.

Tom Bennett is the TES adviser on behaviour and a teacher at Raines Foundation, an inner city state school in Tower Hamlets. He regularly supports teachers on TES through our behaviour forum and monthly newsletters on behaviour.

Online, at home, in your classroom: the rise of the cyberbully

No one likes a bully. Which is odd, because depending on what survey you’ve read, an awful lot of your children are probably doing it, at least online. The ubiquity of cyberspace, the understanding that everyone now exists in two realms- the physical and the virtual, has seen the evolution of a new and unwelcome organism: the cyberbully: someone who uses the penetration and the anonymity of the wireless world to pour scorn and bile onto others. In some ways it’s an old tune with new words: cruelty, vilification and xenophobia have been around with us since Adam and Eve left Eden because ‘it just wasn’t the neighbourhood they moved into.’ And in other ways it’s a new and strange beast. Here are some strategies for reducing- never eradicating- the bullies in your school.

  1. Don’t look for the traditional school bully. Because of the anonymity afforded by the internet, bullies don’t have to rely on muscle and back up to do their dirty deeds. They can be the weediest, quietest shrimp in the basket. And given that bullying is often aimed at making the aggressor feel a bit more special than they were previously, you can see the attraction of this form of cruelty.
  2. Be careful of looking for good guys and bad guys. Just as in verbal exchanges, it is a mistake to immediately assume that one party is the white hat and the other the black. Often bullies will affect the shape and form of a victim in order to counter-accuse their intended victim of bullying. And often a bullied child will lash out and retaliate online, making him seem like the guilty party to an unsubtle eye.
  3. They’re not exactly brain surgeons. I’m a little tired of hearing how computer literate kids are these days. Oh really? The way most of them seem to conduct themselves online suggests that they are the next generation in line to respond to inheritance get-rich scams from Laos. Teach them NOT to tell everyone their passwords, teach them NOT to respond to nasty comments, teach them NOT to pass on cruel rumour emails.

Cyber bullying is big business these days. We shouldn’t be surprised. Where there are people, wonderful, creative, infinitely capable beings that we are, our shadows follow. Where there is cruelty and creativity combined, there will always be an avenue for the darker sides of human nature. Bullying will find a way into every school, and into every avenue for its execution. Our job is to make sure that the victims don’t have to stand alone.

Good luck


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