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Cyberbullying: A whole-school community issue

Preventing Cyberbullying

The best way to deal with cyberbullying is to prevent it happening in the first place. The key first step is deciding who within the school community will take responsibility for the coordination and implementation of cyberbullying prevention and response strategies. It’s best if this person is a member of the school’s senior management team and/or the staff member responsible for coordinating overall anti-bullying activity. This person will need to have experience of making sure the whole school community contribute to, and are included in, activities.

There is no single solution to the problem of cyberbullying. These are the five key areas schools
need to address together to put in place a comprehensive and effective prevention plan:

  • Understanding and talking about cyberbullying
    The whole school community needs a shared, agreed definition of cyberbullying. Everyone needs to be aware of the impact of cyberbullying and the ways in which it differs from other forms of bullying. Young people and their parents should be made aware of pupils’ responsibilities in their use of ICT, and what the sanctions are for misuse. Students and parents should know that the school can provide them with support if cyberbullying takes place out of school.
  • Updating existing policies and practices
    Review and update the school’s anti-bullying policy plus other relevant policies – for example, policies on behaviour, pastoral care and e-learning strategies. Review your existing Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) – the rules that students have to agree to follow in order to use ICT in school – and publicise them to parents and students. Keep good records of any incidents of cyberbullying. Be able to conduct searches of internet use records at school. Knowing that the school is taking such steps may act as a disincentive for bullies to misuse school equipment and systems.
  • Making reporting cyberbullying easier
    No one should feel that they have to deal with cyberbullying alone, but reporting any incident of bullying can be really hard for the person being bullied and for bystanders. Provide and publicise different ways of reporting cyberbullying in schools – for instance, a student council taskforce, peer reporting, anonymous reporting – and provide information about contacting service providers directly.
  • Promoting the positive use of technology
    Technology is successfully being used to support engaging, positive and effective learning, and to realise and increase the potential of personalised learning by making learning more flexible, creative and accessible. Explore safe ways of using technology with learners to support self-esteem, assertiveness, participation and to develop friendships. Promote and discuss ‘netiquette’, e-safety and digital literacy. Show learners that the adults in the school understand the technologies they use – or get the students to
    teach them!
  • Evaluating the impact of prevention activities
    Regular reviews are vital to make sure that anti-bullying policies are working and are up-to-date. Consider conducting an annual survey of pupils’ experiences of bullying, including cyberbullying, and a parent satisfaction survey. Publicise progress and activities to the whole-school community –
    keep cyberbullying a live issue and celebrate your successes!

"Having my daughter show me text messages from nearly everyone in her class, all saying derogatory things about her, was devastating."
A parent