• A quarter of the young people who had been cyberbullied said that knowing how to get hold of and speak to an expert at dealing with cyberbullying would have made a difference.
  • Knowing there was a staff member at school dedicated to stopping bullying was cited by 15% as a help.
  • 13% said that knowing of a website with advice and tips would have helped them

Cyberbullying is emerging as one of the more challenging issues facing educators and parents as young people embrace the Internet and other mobile communication technologies.

Cyber threats are a related concern. A cyber threat is online material that threatens or raises concerns about violence against others, suicide, or other self-harm.

We know from research that mobile bullying is a widespread problem for young people across the UK. Teachers are concerned their students could be bullied by mobile phones. It is important parents and teachers have a common understanding of this issue and work together to prevent cyberbullying.

Making anonymous or abusive phone calls, sending a malicious or threatening text message or email is a criminal offence. Schools should ensure they have policy and agreed procedures for responding to cases of cyber bullying.

Children and young people should be given guidance on how to use technology safely and what to do if they experience cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying can include:

  • Text message bullying – sending unwelcome texts that are threatening or cause discomfort.
  • Picture/video-clip bullying via mobile phone cameras – used to make the person being bullied feel threatened or embarrassed, with images usually sent to other people. For example, so-called ‘Happy slapping’ involves filming and sharing physical attacks.
  • Phone call bullying via mobile phone – silent calls or abusive messages. Sometimes the bullied person’s phone is stolen and used to harass others, who then think the phone owner is responsible. As with all mobile phone bullying, the perpetrators often disguise their numbers, sometimes using someone else’s phone to avoid being identified.
  • Email bullying – uses email to send bullying or threatening messages, often using a pseudonym for anonymity or using someone else’s name to pin the blame on them.
  • Chat room bullying involves sending menacing or upsetting responses to children or young people when they are in a web based chat room.
  • Bullying through instant messaging (IM) is an Internet-based form of bullying where children and young people are sent unpleasant messages as they conduct real-time conversations online.
  • Bullying via websites includes the use of defamatory blogs (weblogs), personal websites and online personal polling sites. There has also been a significant increase in social networking sites for young people, which can provide new opportunities for cyberbullying.

Schools have a duty to ensure that:

  • Bullying via mobile phone or the Internet is included in their mandatory anti-bullying policies, that these policies are regularly updated, and that teachers have sufficient knowledge to deal with cyberbullying in school.
  • The curriculum teaches pupils about the risks of new communications technologies, the consequences of their misuse, and how to use them safely.
  • All e-communications used on the school site or as part of school activities off-site are monitored.
  • Clear policies are set about the use of mobile phones at school and at other times when young people are under the school’s authority.
  • Internet blocking technologies are continually updated and harmful sites blocked.
  • They work with pupils and parents to make sure new communications technologies are used safely, taking account of local and national guidance and good practice.
  • Security systems are in place to prevent images and information about pupils and staff being accessed improperly from outside school.
  • They work with the police and other partners on managing cyberbullying.

If you’re a member of staff

Make sure you’re familiar with your role and responsibilities in:

  • Teaching children safe Internet etiquette.
  • Applying school policy in monitoring electronic messages and images.
  • Giving pupils key guidance on:
    – personal privacy rights
    – material posted on any electronic platform
    – photographic images.
  • Taking action if a pupil is being cyberbullied or is bullying someone else.
  • Teaching pupils the value of e-communications and the risks and consequences of improper use, including the legal implications.
  • Keep up a dialogue with parents about emerging technologies their child might be using.
  • Ensure parents know what steps to take if they suspect that their child is being cyber bullied or is bullying someone else.

How is Cyberbullying different to other forms of bullying?

  • Technology allows the user to bully anonymously or from an unknown location, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • No place, not even a bedroom, provides sanctuary from the intrusion of a threatening text message or an abusive e-mail.
  • Cyberbullying leaves no physical scars so it is, perhaps, less evident to a parent or teacher, but it is highly intrusive and the hurt it causes can be very severe.
  • Young people are particularly adept at adapting to new technology, an area that can often seem a closed world to adults. For example, the numerous acronyms used by young people in chat rooms and in text messages (POS – Parents Over Shoulder, TUL – Tell You Later) make it difficult for adults to recognise potential threats.

Often young people who do not fall into the obvious bully characteristics bullying others on line due to the lack of direct contact needed.

Further information:

Cyberbullying research (PDF)
Safe to Learn- Cyberbullying (PDF)