Cyberbullying: Advice for Schools

Cyberbullying is one of the most critical issues facing schools today. Recent reports show that over 5 million young people in Britain have been affected by this form of bullying. The impact of cyberbullying is severe and can lead to low self-esteem, self-harming, health problems later in life and, in the most serious cases, suicide.

This is a problem that’s getting worse as we spend more and more time online: Childline has seen a phenomenal 87% increase in calls relating to cyberbullying. With 96% of young people aged between 11-19 using online tools to communicate with each other, it’s clear that preventing cyberbullying must be a major priority for schools. This article provides essential cyberbullying advice for schools and looks at the key tools and resources available to help educate young people about staying safe online.

Cyberbullying in schools: raising awareness

The first step is to ensure that all children and staff are educated about cyberbullying and understand who may be at risk. Online bullying isn’t limited to social media or posting inappropriate images; it can also involve sending unpleasant text or group messages or using online tools to impersonate someone else. Sometimes messages can be meant as a joke but cause hurt or embarrassment, and this needs to be understood. There are also certain groups that may be at greater risk; girls and young people who are gay or bi-sexual are more likely to be victims of cyberbullying. Teachers in schools are also at risk of online bullying – they need to be included in all prevention strategies to ensure that everyone is given the right support and advice.

Strategies to help schools prevent cyberbullying

Cyberbullying isn’t an issue that can be dealt with simply by organising annual online safety briefings; strategies need to thread through every aspect of teaching and learning. These are some useful tips to help address cyberbullying in schools:

  • Everyone needs to be involved in tackling cyberbullying – students, staff and parents.
  • Parents and young people alike need to be aware of a school’s policy on preventing cyberbullying; they need to know how to report incidences and understand how the school will deal with it. Any policies need to be written in an accessible way, using language that young people can relate to. The key messages from these documents can be reinforced through regular online safety events or assemblies.
  • As well as school policies and awareness events, young people also need ongoing discussions about cyberbullying during lessons or pastoral care sessions. PSHE and Citizenship are just two examples of lessons where cyberbullying can be raised and discussed in the classroom. Integrating cyberbullying into the everyday curriculum will help young people to feel more comfortable speaking about their concerns.
  • Schools can use creative activities such as art, imaginative writing or drama to help young people express their feelings about cyberbullying.
  • Teaching staff should have access to regular training sessions and updated information as new advice about how to manage cyberbullying becomes available. Staff should also be able to liaise with other schools to discuss best practice in preventing cyberbullying.
  • Advice about tackling cyberbullying needs to be balanced with the positives of using technology; young people need to learn about the benefits of growing up in a digitally-driven world while understanding how to use the internet in a responsible way.

Dealing with cyberbullying at school

If any incidences of cyberbullying are reported to the school, it’s vital to manage it quickly and with sensitivity. The young person affected may well be frightened or embarrassed, so they will need support and reassurance. If there is any material still online, it needs to be removed but kept for evidence which can be done through screen shots. The young person may also need reminders about privacy settings or changing passwords to help protect them for the future.

If the young person knows who was behind the bullying, the school needs to follow the usual steps according to their policies; any actions should involve educating the perpetrator about the seriousness of what they have done, to ensure there are no further incidences.

Resources available for schools

There are plenty of excellent resources available to help schools deal with cyberbullying. The Anti-Bullying Alliance has a range of assessment tools to help schools write and update policies. 360® Safe is an e-safety resource where schools can review the effectiveness of the steps they are currently taking and apply for accreditations too.

Educational videos that relate to issues faced by young people are another invaluable teaching resource for schools. These videos will inspire discussions and help students to talk about their concerns more openly. One video that brings young people’s challenges to life is The Age of Stress, part of the Child of our Time series. This video looks at the pressure that young people experience in our fast-paced society, where children as young as seven have to take exams and bullying is on the rise.  Teenage and Gay is another unmissable video that follows the journey of five teenagers as they come out about their sexuality, and highlights the difficulties that they face.

Cyberbullying continues to be a key challenge facing schools, and as students become more and more adept at using technology it will remain a threat to the wellbeing of young people. But with the right integrated approach and resources in place, schools can provide cyberbullying advice that will help students use the internet safely and responsibly.

BBC Active Video for Learning provides a high-quality range of educational videos which bring a wide range of subjects alive in the classroom. There are licences available for each title and all programmes are available in DVD format.