Anti-bullying week runs from 18-22 November
South West London schools are fighting cyber-bullying with a range of special lessons to tackle the issue.
As social networking sites reach an ever younger audience, 55% of children across England now accept cyber-bullying as part of everyday life.
This statistic, part of a survey commissioned by legal experts Slater and Gordon in conjunction with the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA), highlights the problems addressed by this year’s Anti-Bullying Week.
“We’ll be doing an assembly on anti-bullying,” said a spokesperson for Fenstanton Primary School in Lambeth, which also has an Anti-Bullying Youth Ambassador scheme in place.
“This will hopefully make the children feel more confident, and make them aware of the potential problems. We’ve found with the ambassadors that often children feel more comfortable speaking to other children rather than to adults.”
Anti-bullying week, which runs from 18-22 November, was established by the ABA in 2006 and this year has the theme of cyber-bullying.
“It’s really important to recognise that cyber-bullying is just as important as real-world physical bullying or verbal abuse,” said Luke Roberts, National Coordinator of the ABA.
Although cyber-bullying is a term that has been widely discussed for years the problem is only getting worse, as the scope of most children’s knowledge of social-networking sites greatly overshadows that of their parents.
According to the ABA’s survey, while 67% of children would turn to their parents if bullied online, 40% of parents said that they would not know how to respond and only 19% have set up parental controls across all devices.
The ABA are working in conjunction with internet security provider McAfee to produce a series of videos about cyber-bullying, providing practical advice for parents and children on how to prevent it.
“We need a collaborative approach to tackling cyber-bullying,” said Mr Roberts. “If we get this right and make cyber-bullying a thing of the past, our children will be able to enjoy a digital future that is safe, fun and connected.”
Part of what makes cyber-bullying such a significant problem is that it is a relatively new phenomenon – the parents of those children affected by it have never experienced it themselves and as such have little advice to offer.
While more traditional forms of bullying have affected preceding generations, and parents can teach their children how to cope with the situation, cyber-bullying takes place in an environment that leaves the child feeling alone and vulnerable.
“Traditional bullying in the past used to stop when the school bell rang, but cyber-bullying can happen over the weekends, and in the evenings as well,” said Raj Samani, McAfee Vice President and Chief Technology Officer.
“Also the number of people you can be bullied by has grown exponentially so it’s not just those people in the playground, but is potentially anybody out there on the internet.”
Mr Samani said that it is a great deal easier to send an abusive email or tweet than it is to say the same thing face-to-face, and as the bully is separated from their victim technology has dehumanised the bullying aspect.
The focus for the week is educating both children and parents about these issues, as 43% of teachers said their schools didn’t currently teach anything about cyber-bullying or online safety.
“It’s really important that parents understand how to help young people build resilience with their digital identity just as much as with their real-world identity,” said Mr Roberts.
The ABA and McAfee are encouraging parents to sit down with their children and discuss how to stay safe online, such as not revealing personal information on social-networking sites.
To find out more, or make a donation to the Anti-Bullying Alliance, visit http://www.anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk
Photo courtesy of artworksbytb, with thanks.
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