Cyber mentors recruited to shut down bullies

20th January 2012 at 00:00
Pupils will help peers tackle online bullying through a scheme launched in Perth

Pupils are learning to use the internet to fight back against cyber- bullies under an award-winning scheme that is being launched this term in Scotland.

Nearly 30 pupils at Perth High, aged 12 to 16, have been trained as "cyber mentors" to help their peers tackle issues, both online and off.

The initiative is run by a leading UK charity, Beatbullying, which has operated the scheme successfully south of the border since 2009. Its chief executive, Emma-Jane Cross, hopes it will be extended to all Scottish secondaries.

"CyberMentors forms a crucial part of our ongoing battle to stamp out bullying and is the direct result of feedback given by the young people we have worked with across the country," she said.

"We are hoping that the success of the (Perth) launch will help us attract more support so that we can roll the scheme out beyond this inaugural session far and wide across Scotland."

The Perth students have joined the ranks of 8,000 youngsters across the UK who have all received specialist training from Beatbullying staff to enable them to support their peers with any bullying issue through the website.

Mentors at Perth High will work on a rota basis, offering advice and help at lunchtimes and after school.

Victims of bullying can also leave a message at any time of day, to which mentors will respond when they are online.

Bernard Munro was among the 27 pupils trained to be cyber mentors in Perth.

The 15-year-old, who has never been involved in anti-bullying initiatives before, said: "The training was really good. I have seen a lot of incidents of bullying, online and offline, and experienced it myself at times.

"Facebook has certainly grown as a kind of gossip area. I think cyber- mentoring will have a great impact."

Perth High was chosen for the Scottish launch largely because of the work of principal guidance teacher Catriona Laing, who is currently seconded to work on internet safety at Perth and Kinross Council, which supports the initiative.

Mrs Laing said: "As a guidance teacher, I was spending increasing amounts of time dealing with pupils who were distressed or upset by something which happened on Facebook, which was affecting their ability to learn in the classroom.

"Often pupils don't come to you until things have escalated.

"With CyberMentors, hopefully pupils will contact their peers much more quickly than they come to teachers, which will help to reduce the level of bullying and delays in dealing with it."

Looking for help

One in three children across the UK has experienced bullying and one in 13 is bullied constantly.

Beatbullying has cited research showing that 60 per cent of young people said they would actively seek advice online from their peers.

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