Schools in England Get a Red Mark for Cyberbullying

For many young people, social media is now ingrained into their daily routine. It’s the way they communicate with peers, a way to express themselves, but it’s also become a virtual playground where cyberbullying is very much a reality.

So much so that a recent study which interviewed 2,376 teachers of children aged 11-14 and 157 head teachers, has named and shamed England as the worst in the world for cyberbullying. The global education report by the Teaching and Learning International Survey revealed that 13.9% of headteachers reported that students had been subject to malicious comments online. These figures were substantially higher than other countries questioned.

The study also revealed that on a weekly basis, students, parents and guardians were posting hurtful information online about students. A further 27% received reports of unwanted electronic contact among students in their school – this is in contrast to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation (OECD) average of 3.4%.

The Fight Against Cyberbullying

Following on from the report, experts have warned that schools in England need to get to grips with cyberbullying and make tackling it a priority. It is no longer an option to ignore the signs of cyberbullying and sit and wait for it to go away – it won’t.

We know that some of the most popular social media channels are feeling the pressure to adapt their platforms to help support the rise in cyberbullying. Instagram has recently announced major updates to help tackle the problem. However, following this report and the results from similar studies, teachers and schools are in the spotlight and are being encouraged to support this issue to clamp down on cyberbullying for good.

So what can UK schools implement to radically improve things?

A cyberbullying protocol, like the one below, is a good first step:

Pause: Stop the cycle. Advise the young person not to retaliate or reply to the messages.

Evidence: Even though the victim may want to delete abusive phone messages, they are needed as evidence. Taking screenshots and printing web pages is also necessary.

Support: The victim will need support and reassurance from parents, the school counsellor, and teachers. Make sure know they know that there is support there for them and they did the right thing by alerting the school to the issues.

Report: Any abuse on social networking sites or by text message should be reported directly to to the social platforms and mobile phone networks.

Inform: Advise the victim on how to help prevent certain kinds of cyberbullying. This includes changing passwords, blocking access and reporting abuse to the social platforms directly.

Privacy: Many young people over share personal information on the Internet. Advise students to keep personal information private.

Investigation: Every cyberbullying claim needs to be investigated fully. Pupils guilty of cyberbullying should be asked to remove any abusive messages immediately and be dealt with in a manner that deters them and others from ever repeating the same mistake.

A process to deal with the after-effects of cyberbullying like the one above is useful, but getting to the root of the problem in our schools is critical.

A good first step is to help our young people to understand that online bullying is every bit as harmful as physical bullying – and that the consequences therfore, are just as severe.