Fight cyberbullies, schools told

21 Sep 2007 • by Natalie Aster

Schools are being given guidance urging them to take firm action against pupils who use mobile phones and the internet to bully other children and teachers, reported The BBC.

More than a third of 12 to 15-year-olds have faced some kind of cyberbullying, according to a government study.

Ministers are also launching an awareness campaign on the social networking sites used by many pupils.

Schools have been told they can confiscate mobile phones and how to get hurtful material pulled from websites.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls said cyber bullying was "insidious" and had grown with technology and changes in society.

Schools needed to get to grips with newer forms of bullying, he said.

Examples cited include threats, intimidation, harassment or "cyber-stalking", unauthorised publication of private information or images, impersonation and so-called "happy slapping".

Mr Balls also called for action against anti-gay bullying -calling for schools to promote a "culture of respect" and saying that "homophobic insults should be viewed as seriously as racism".

Ed Balls said: "The vast majority of schools are safe environments to learn in. However, we know that behaviour, particularly bullying, is a key concern for parents and bullying of any kind is unacceptable.

"Cyberbullying is a particularly insidious type of bullying as it can follow young people wherever they go and the anonymity that it seemingly affords to the perpetrator can make it even more stressful for the victim.

"One message that I want to get across to young people is that bystanders can inadvertently become perpetrators - simply by passing on videos or images, they are playing a part in bullying.

"We now have an advanced approach to cyber bullying, thanks in no small part to the co-operation with the industry, teaching unions and charities."

The guide being sent out to schools in England says cyberbullying can be an extension of face-to-face bullying, "with technology providing the bully with another route to harass their target".

But it says it differs in that it invades home and personal space and the perpetrator can use the cloak of anonymity.

Among the new guidance are tips for drawing up anti-bullying policies to cover cyber bullying, how to have offensive or malicious material removed from websites, and advice on confiscating equipment used in bullying, such as mobile phones.