Cyber bullying – it’s time to bring things into the open

Whilst it feels as if we’ve come a long way when it comes to tackling cyber bullying, events of previous weeks show there is still much to be done.


Bullying sketchOnly days ago, another victim took their own life as a result of being persecuted on the Internet. Yorkshire teenager, George Hessay had just turned 15 on May 10th when he was found to have hung himself after receiving insulting comments online. Surprisingly, the comments were not posted on one of the mainstream social media sites but on Sayat.me, an Estonian site created as an anonymous feedback tool for business users seeking “constructive, honest feedback” from colleagues and clients. The site clearly states that it is for use by people over 18, yet amongst its 30 million users, many are believed to be teenagers.

The Sayat.me site apologised with a statement that it deplores bullying of any kind and was taken offline by its administrators, however removing the site fails to address the crux of the problem. For every site that is removed, there are always hundreds of other ‘anonymous’ sites that can be willingly accessed by teenagers. These are often unmoderated and lack the adequate tools to report and block offensive comments.

The problem of anonymity
Anonymous sites pose particular dangers for young people. Whilst they state their purpose is to give people the freedom to express themselves without fear or prejudice, giving irresponsible people a virtual curtain to hide behind often means giving them the means to torment others without the fear of reproach. Strong opinions that wouldn’t normally be vented in the real world can easily be typed in just a few seconds, online arguments can escalate and people quickly become victims of insult or abuse. For younger people, their bullies are often people they know in the real world; frustrated or jealous school mates who reveal a nastier side when they have the opportunity to conceal their identities. Bullied adolescents and teenagers are left hurt and agonised, not knowing which of their ‘friends’ has turned against them.

One of the ways online bullying differs so much from personal bullying is that the perpetrator is able to psychologically disconnect themselves from the damage they are causing. Whilst bullying once took place in the playground, the ownership of digital devices by young people means that bullying can take place on a 24 hour basis. For the victim there is no escape, even when they’re at home. Younger people who have experienced online bullying suffer from lower self-esteem, fear, frustration, anger and depression and increased suicidal ideation, with the psychological damage of online bullying often taking years to heal. The impact is long lasting.

Let’s start talking
With no real way to enforce an over 18s restriction on anonymous websites (most young people will falsify information to sign up anyway) the only way to prevent online bullying is to encourage victims to speak out and raise awareness of the damage they’ve suffered at the hands of other young people. Whilst technology has evolved at a tremendous pace, some of the social aspects of bullying remain the same. Young people still experience tremendous pressure to be accepted. Action for Children reported that one in seven (15%) children has bullied others online, with nearly 60% of children responding that they bullied to fit in with a certain social group.

The need for proper education, openness and discussion of the matter has been supported by the NSPCC who, in the wake of George Hessay’s death stated that “Children and teenagers must be reassured that it’s perfectly okay to refuse to take part in crazes that either make themselves or other people upset, hurt and scared and that parents should talk with their children and emphasise that they can still be accepted even if they don’t go along with the crowd.”

Having these types of conversations can be difficult, but opening up the subject carries huge benefits. Those who are being bullied find it incredibly isolating and fear discussing the types of comments they’ve been receiving, particularly with their parents. Making it clear to them that it’s ok to bring things into the open without creating anger, criticism or upset means that the problem can explored, options discussed and any further bullying eliminated, giving the child a much happier outcome.

How parents can get involved
With half term almost upon us, Internet Matters has taken the perfect opportunity to drive these conversations through its #Pledge2Talk campaign. Working alongside the Anti-Bullying Alliance, they have created guides for parents, providing advice on how to discuss the subject of cyber bullying with their children and the steps they can take if they feel they are being threatened online. The week-long holiday means that parents are more likely to be with their children at home, with many children using their mobile devices and social media, giving a natural situation in which the topic can be raised and discussed.

Talking about cyber bullying in the school environment
Education about the cyber bullying shouldn’t just stop at home, and 'Stop Cyberbullying Day' on 16th June gives schools a chance to create a themed day around the topic. This could include assemblies, lessons and workshops about why young people are drawn into online bullying, how to say ‘no’ when encouraged by peers to bully others and how young people can reduce the risk of attracting online bullies, such as not using anonymous forums and websites. Most importantly, it’s a perfect time to discuss the responsible use of the Internet, meaning adolescents understand how their online behaviour impacts others and how it can leave behind lasting and harmful consequences.

Free cyber bullying webinar
To learn more about teaching children about cyber bullying, why not join us for one of our three seminars taking place throughout Thursday 8th June?

Presented by Tim Pinto, e-safety consultant and member of the Educational Advisory Board for CEOP, each webinar will give you a 20 minute refresher on the topic, quickly updating you on all you need to know about this increasingly worrying trend of behaviour amongst young people.

The webinars will address the following:

  • Definitions of cyber bullying - different names e.g. trash talk
  • Research - how many young people are being affected?
  • The signs to look out for and the consequences of cyber bullying
  • Ways to counter cyber bullying
  • There will also be a section on tips for teaching cyber bullying awareness and prevention.

    To register for the 10am cyber bullying webinar, click here
    To register for the 2pm cyber bullying webinar, click here
    To register for the 4pm cyber bullying webinar, click here

    All E-safety Support members can also download a cyber bullying assembly plan to use on 'Stop Cyberbullying Day'. To download the assembly, log into your E-safety Support dashboard or register for free membership

    Further webinars taking place include 'Digital Reputation' and 'Public WiFi' - find out more

    Written by E-safety Support on May 25, 2017 08:52

    Stop Cyberbullying Day – 16th June 2017

    Support the cause in creating a diverse and inclusive Internet for all


    SCD2017
    With this year’s 'Stop Cyberbullying Day', there’s no better opportunity to teach your students about using the Internet respectfully and responsibly.

    'Stop Cyberbullying Day' was founded by The Cybersmile Foundation on June 17th 2012, to promote online positivity and good digital citizenship. Since then, every year on the third Friday in June, 'Stop Cyberbullying Day' has become a growing force of positivity

    The day brings together the entire global community in demonstrating our mutual commitment towards making the Internet a safer place for young people to enjoy. The aim is for all young people to have the freedom to use the Internet for learning, gaming and being social without the fear of threats or harassment.

    The facts
    Cyber bullying and online abuse can lead to social isolation, depression, eating disorders self-harm and suicide. Statistics from PEW Research and iSafe Foundation state that:

  • 40% of Internet users say they have personally experienced digital abuse
  • 20% of those who experienced online harassment said they feared for their lives
  • 50% of teens have been bullied online
  • How to get involved
    Whether you choose to be involved on the day itself or whether you choose to tackle cyber bullying all year round, there are a number of ways you can get involved.

  • Twitter - ask students to come up with advice they would give a victim of cyber bullying or come up with an anti-cyber bullying slogan and Tweet it to @CybersmileHQ using the hashtag #stopcyberbullyingday
  • Fundraise - hold a non-uniform day, tackle a sponsored challenge or hold a cyber bullying awareness event in your school
  • Become a Partner - join the Cybersmile Foundation, 'Stop Cyberbullying Day' campaign as an official school partner.
  • As part of our commitment in helping schools educate children about safer Internet usage we are pleased to offer you our cyber bullying assembly plan, which can be downloaded by both Free and Premium Plus E-safety Support members

    “'Stop Cyberbullying Day' has grown to become something very special. Engagement numbers each year are in the millions, yet the event is still in its relative infancy. Although Cybersmile will continue to coordinate 'Stop Cyberbullying Day', providing a designated platform for the event to continue to grow at its own speed makes complete sense.” – Dan Raisbeck, Co-Founder, The Cybersmile Foundation.

    SID2017 Ambassadors

    Written by E-safety Support on May 18, 2017 09:19

    Leading from the front

    The governing body is fundamental in driving a continued, proactive approach to online safety


    Social Media TreeIn a world where technology seems to be evolving at an ever increasing pace, the role of the school governor has never been more important.

    Whilst it’s difficult to imagine a time before social media existed, let alone the Internet, it’s incredible to think that it was actually only four and half years ago that Ofsted first incorporated the briefing for the inspection of e-safety into its section 5 criteria. Since then, things have changed dramatically, with regular revisions being applied to reflect changing ways in which technology is being both used and manipulated within our society.

    Indeed, September 2016 saw some new additions, with Ofsted updating and republishing their guidance on ‘Inspecting Safeguarding in early years, education and skills’ to correspond with the changes to the latest version of the DfE’s Keeping Children Safe in Education’ statutory guidance on safeguarding. Amongst the updates included the clarification that designated members of staff for safeguarding need to have training every two years and their knowledge and skills should be refreshed at least annually.

    One of the responsibilities of the governing body is to approve and promote the schools online safety policy and review its effectiveness, yet an Ofsted survey held as recently as 2015 revealed that 5% of schools still didn’t have an online safety policy and for those that did, only 74% of students were aware of it.

    Whilst all schools should have a clearly defined online safety policy, a typed piece of paper will do little by itself, other than to serve as another box ticked. The key to the success of any initiative is how it is both managed and delivered. In the 2008 government report ‘Safer Children in an Online World’, it was found that schools who were ranked outstanding largely took a shared responsibility for the delivery of the policy, leaving it not just to the safeguarding staff, but including members of the wider workforce. The section 5 Ofsted assessment places great importance on the extent to which leaders, governors and managers create a positive culture and ethos where safeguarding is an important part of everyday life in the school setting, and this should be backed up by training at every level.

    E-safety training is recommended for all governors, and best practice concedes that every school should have a nominated e-safety governor that remains separate from the ICT link governor as e-safety is recognised as a safeguarding, rather than an IT issue. The role of the e-safety governor involves overseeing 5 key areas:

    1. Managing, reviewing, promoting and evaluating the adherence to the online safety policy and strategy
    2. Ensuring the right mechanisms are in place to support pupils, staff and parents facing online safety issues, including the designation of a safeguarding lead who is trained to support staff and liaise with other agencies
    3. Making certain that all staff receive appropriate online safety training that is relevant and that the training is refreshed annually
    4. Measuring the effectiveness of child online safety education in the school, with the aim of delivering education that builds knowledge, skills and confidence
    5. Educating parents and the whole school community about online safety

    With Ofsted having recently placed a greater emphasis on inspecting the effectiveness of the governing body, it’s become even more important that the governors work cohesively with the DSL and the senior leadership team, particularly in the area of safeguarding. This will drive the momentum required to continuously and proactively deliver online safety education and e-safety best practice throughout the year, not just if and when a safeguarding issue arises or when it is felt an inspection might be on the horizon.

    So, whilst the online threats might have changed with the progression of technology, the reasons how and why schools perform well in online safety hasn’t. Strong leadership remains pivotal in the delivery of a successful policy, whilst training is vital in keeping knowledge and skills up to date. At the same time, assemblies, parent workshops, tutorial time, PSHE lessons, and an age-appropriate curriculum for e-safety all help pupils to become safe and responsible users of new technologies.



    A checklist for governors is available to all E-safety Support Free members and can be downloaded from the guidance section of the dashboard. Governors can also learn more about their digital safeguarding responsibilities with our bespoke online training for governors, available to E-safety Support Premium Plus members

    Social Media Devices

    Written by E-safety Support on May 11, 2017 11:13


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