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2. Preventing Cyberbullying


2.3.1This section deals with recording incidents, adapting existing policies and making sure everyone knows about any changes. Reviewing existing anti-bullying policies and school behaviour policies so that they cover cyberbullying incidents is an important part of your regular review of these documents. Cyberbullying issues will also impact on a range of other policies – staff development, ICT support and infrastructure, and e-learning strategies, for example.

Review and update policies to include cyberbullying

2.3.2School governors, head teachers and senior managers should audit existing policies and procedures to decide which need to be changed or adapted in order to include cyberbullying prevention and how to respond to incidents.

2.3.3 The school’s anti-bullying policy and/or school behaviour policy will certainly need to address cyberbullying if they do not already do so. It is important too that cyberbullying is addressed in ICT and other relevant lessons, and is brought to life through activities. As with other whole-school policies, it is important to include and empower young people to take part in the process.

Log all cyberbullying incidents

2.3.4Keeping good records of any incidents of cyberbullying is essential, and can help to monitor the effectiveness of your school’s prevention activities. The use of technology in any incident can be recorded using your existing incident report forms and these can be logged as cyberbullying incidents.

Review your existing Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs)

2.3.5AUPs are the rules that students have to agree to follow in order to use ICT in school. If you only have these online, you might want to produce a paper form that can be sent home for parents to see. You may want to produce separate AUPs for using different kinds of technology – e.g. for use of the school network; use of a school Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) or other learning platforms / interactive tools; and use of mobile phones on school premises. Policies should outline the rules and responsibilities of use, sanctions for misuse, and issues around confiscation and retention.

2.3.6 It is for schools to decide if they wish to ban or restrict the use of mobile phones or certain internet sites during school hours. It is open for schools to include in their behaviour / anti-bullying policies measures to restrict the use of mobile phones and websites and strong sanctions for their misuse. Cyberbullying should be taken very seriously and schools should take such action as they consider appropriate to prevent it. However, it is important that such rules are well-publicised and that parents are aware of such measures (parents may currently contact their child via mobile to arrange suitable after-school collection times, for example, and need to know if phones will be required to be switched off during school hours) and that the school takes into account other implications as discussed in paragraph 1.2.4.

2.3.7Staff who have a role in moderating and monitoring VLEs and other online environments should have clear guidance on how to respond to reports of cyberbullying or the discovery of offensive or upsetting material. If offensive material is posted on your institution’s website, the school may face potential liability if they fail to take it down promptly once they are made aware of it. The AUP is a positive step the school can take towards ensuring material is not published, along with anti-cyberbullying and ‘responsible use’ activities. It is very important that action is taken as soon as the staff member responsible or the school becomes aware of any offensive material. Removing material needs to involve the school IT staff, since data may be required by a third party for investigation.

Case study: An example of an Acceptable Use Policy for pupils from a secondary school in Manchester can be found in item G in the ‘Resources’ section. Pupils need to sign up to the policy to show both that they agree to the rules in the AUP and understand the consequences if they do not.