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New lines to beat the cyberbullies

Cyberbullying is a nasty and increasingly common form of abuse, says Margaret Robertson, guidance teacher at St Maurice's High in Cumbernauld.

"It can take place at any time, often in the pupils' own homes," she said. "The audience for the bullying can be large and contact is rapid. The victim may be unaware they are being bullied. Unfortunately, cyberbullying is limited only by the imagination and creativity of the perpetrators."

So what's a school to do? St Maurice's had been piloting cyberbullying materials in personal and social education classes for their S2s. The school decided to extend the idea and develop a "whole-school, multi-agency approach", said Ms Robertson.

The initiative was launched late last year to coincide with national anti-bullying week. The second-year materials and resources were extended to cover S1-6. A poster competition was run in December; a raising awareness presentation was delivered at assemblies; and a start was made on updating the cluster's anti-bullying policy to include cyberbullying.

"When we talked to the kids we found they were quite knowledgeable about cyberbullying," said Jean Morrison, depute head. "It's about technology and they're interested in that. But they didn't necessarily know how to deal with it.

"At St Maurice's, we're keen to develop peer-led education. Our partnership officer - who's a great resource for a school - and North Lanarkshire organisation Phacts (peer health and counselling training services) has been training our sixth-years to be buddies. They've been delivering workshops on cyberbullying to the entire first year."

This became one of the most effective and well-received parts of the initiative, says the depute head, so the workshops have been filmed and a DVD produced. This is being used to demonstrate the resources and the peer-led workshops to the rest of North Lanarkshire's schools.

Cyberbullying is abusive behaviour - usually by a group against an individual - that uses mobile phones or the internet.

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