The fight to beat the cy­ber bul­lies

Ef­forts be­ing made by par­ents and schools against grow­ing prob­lem

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - by An­drew Jack­son an­drew.jack­son01@trin­i­tymir­

PAR­ENTS, teach­ers and ed­u­ca­tion bosses are wag­ing a new war against cy­ber bul­lies across the county.

Our spe­cial re­port to­day lifts the lid on a grow­ing 21st-cen­tury prob­lem, in which play­ground taunts and class­room teas­ing are be­ing re­placed by on­line abuse and sex­u­ally ex­plicit pic­tures of chil­dren be­ing shared among class­mates.

A brave vic­tim of cy­ber bul­ly­ing has told how she con­sid­ered tak­ing her own life when as a teenager she was mer­ci­lessly taunted for be­ing a les­bian. She has since beaten her demons and now helps oth­ers go­ing through the same or­deal.

The Na­tional Union of Teach­ers has said teach­ers in Bucks are also at risk of fall­ing vic­tim to cy­ber bul­lies and need help to pro­tect them­selves from fall­ing vic­tim to abuse as well as guid­ance in how to help keep chil­dren pro­tected from on­line harm.

And a psy­chol­o­gist has told us what drives cy­ber bul­lies to hide be­hind the in­ter­net to tor­ment vic­tims and what needs to be done to stop them mak­ing their vic­tims’ lives a mis­ery.

It may sound like de­press­ing read­ing, but there is some truly in­spi­ra­tional work be­ing done to tackle a prob­lem which to some ex­tent af­fects ev­ery pri­mary and sec­ondary school in Bri­tain.

We talk to head­teach­ers at schools in Bucks to find out about the im­pres­sive work be­ing done to raise aware­ness, pro­tect chil­dren and support young peo­ple who fall vic­tim to this cruel and cowardly be­hav­iour.

We also hear from an ex­pert at Bucks County Coun­cil who leads a team who visit schools to give as­sem­blies about cy­ber bul­ly­ing and on­line safety.

Fi­nally, we pro­vide ad­vice and in­for­ma­tion if cy­ber bul­ly­ing is some­thing which af­fects you or some­one you know.

BUL­LY­ING has be­come a 24/7 prob­lem – it may have been pre­dictable: so­cial me­dia sites where peo­ple share com­ments and pho­tos were bound to at­tract nasty re­marks from some users.

But the scale of the prob­lem is grow­ing and af­fect­ing one of the most vul­ner­a­ble groups in Buck­ing­hamshire – chil­dren.

It is a prob­lem ev­ery school needs to be ready for. There is im­pres­sive work across the county such as at Chalfonts Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Chal­font St Peter, which has de­vel­oped its own strat­egy for tack­ling a prob­lem which can af­fect any school.

County fig­ures are hard to come by be­cause of the con­fi­den­tial na­ture of re­port­ing a case, but the na­tional statis­tics are wor­ry­ing.

ChildLine han­dled 27,766 coun­selling ses­sions where cy­ber­bul­ly­ing was men­tioned as a main con­cern be­tween April 2013 and March 2014.

Out of that num­ber, 8,253 said the bul­ly­ing was through so­cial me­dia sites such as Face­book. This is a 35 per cent in­crease when com­pared with 2012-2013

Cy­ber bul­ly­ing can also in­clude send­ing un­pleas­ant text or photographs to a per­son’s phone. Young gay peo­ple are even more at risk than their peers, with one in four ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ho­mo­pho­bic cybe bul­ly­ing.

The is­sue also reaches teach­ers, who can face web abu and on­line hate groups set up t ridicule them.

The veil of anonymity sur­round­ing on­line be­hav­iour can be a draw to bul­lies. We speak to a psy­chol­o­gist to find out why they do it, and to a tar­get of cy­ber bul­ly­ing to see just how dam­ag­ing it can be, as well as teach­ers, schools and a county coun­cil ex­pert to see wh is be­ing done to tackle the prob­lem.

Pic­ture posed by model

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