Bullying set to rights

SCOTLAND'S NEW anti-bullying service will target abusive messages sent via mobile phones and the internet.

Dealing with bullying outside school will be high on the agenda of respectme. Education Minister Hugh Henry, speaking at the launch of the Scottish Executive service this week, stressed that it was no longer acceptable to focus purely on in-school bullying, as previous initiatives had done.

"Bullying is more likely to take place outwith the classroom - perhaps on the school bus or at the youth club - and today's youngsters also have the potential problems of cyber and text bullying to contend with," he said.

The new service will not provide direct help to people being bullied, but will instead help organisations that work with children to develop anti-bullying measures.

Brian Donnelly, service director, reiterated that cyber and text bullying would figure prominently in such measures. He believes this area requires more work, since adults are often less adept with new technology than children.

Examples of this type of bullying, he explained, included forwarding a child's mobile phone number so they received abusive text messages in quick succession, or leaving nasty comments on another child's entry on a social networking website, such as Bebo or MySpace.

He said practical advice would be offered to organisations - often it can be as simple as checking phone bills - but that it was important to carry out more research, as the abuse of new technol-ogy was a rapidly developing area.

Mr Donnelly also wants to see at least one "champion" appointed in each of Scotland's 32 local authorities, who would receive training before spreading anti-bullying messages. That person could come from a variety of backgrounds.

Among its aims, respectme intends to carry out a national asses-sment of anti-bullying policies, and provide training to help organisations implement them.

Mr Donnelly emphasised that work still needed to be done to change perceptions about bullying. "We want bullying to be seen as a rights issue, not as part of growing up. You have a right to be free from bullying. If an adult feels someone's rights have been breached, they will act, rather than dismissing it as teenage dynamics."

The respectme contract is for five years, with annual funding of pound;350,000 per annum for the first three years. Funding will be reviewed thereafter.

* www.respectme.org.uk

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