Cyberbullying: How schools can protect staff and pupils

Cyberbullying is a new and disturbing phenomenon where ICT, usually in the form of mobile phones and the internet, is used to intentionally upset someone. It not only affects pupils but teachers, too.

Rising incidence
In a recent survey of teachers who had personally experienced cyberbullying, over 6o per cent said that they had received unwelcome emails. More than a quarter had had offensive messages posted about them on social networking sites such as Facebook, while 28 per cent described being sent unwelcome text messages.

The survey was jointly conducted by the Teacher Support Network charity and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers union. “What was once a note passed among pupils in the classroom is now posted on the internet for all to see”, comments Julian Stanley, chief executive of Teacher Support Network.

Prevention guidelines
New guidance on cyberbullying, jointly produced by the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Teacher Support Network, recommends a whole school approach with the following key elements:

  • A shared, agreed definition of cyberbullying.
  • Development of new policies and practices, ensuring that everyone is engaged in and aware of the school’s approach to cyberbullying.
  • A culture of confident ICT users, supports innovation, e-safety, digital literacy skills, and helps to combat misuse and high-risk activities.

Having a robust behaviour policy and practices in place, that reflects the seriousness of cyberbullying, is vital, confirms Davina Stansfield, a secondary head of ICT. “We revised our behaviour policy to ensure that online misbehaviour is given the same equivalence as playground incidents,” she says.

Involve parents
Crucially, parents should also be involved, advises Davina. “We knew that it was essential to develop parental awareness of the potential dangers of technology so we set up a parents’ advice evening with the Lucy Faithfull foundation and our parents’ association”. They jointly created leaflets and online materials to provide guidance for parents on the issue.

Cross-curricular approach
Linking cyberbullying with other relevant subjects is another, effective cross-curricular preventative approach, says Maddy Moore, a PSHE coordinator. “It’s not hard to find subjects that relate to cyberbullying. The most obvious one is personal, social, health and education, citizenship, but you could also link it to English, for example, ask KS3 students to write a persuasive piece on the dangers of the internet and ways they can be safe online,” she says.

Other teachers have found drama to be an effective medium in getting the message across. “We’ve used role play to show younger children some of the dangers of ICT misuse,” says Ms Stansfield. “This worked effectively because younger children look up to the older ones involved in the role play.”

Useful links:

For more workplace advice visit the Teacher’s survival guide