Cyber bullying is a very real part of school life and sadly one that is on the rise.

With growing numbers reporting that they have been subjected to some kind of pain through the actions of a cyber bully, often with the added stress that they have no idea of who is carrying out the harassment due to the ease of remaining anonymous when making threats or defamatory comments, the school has a pivotal role to play in reducing this terrible form of treatment towards peers.

1. Basic ground rules

The best place to start when looking to reduce cyber bullying is with a classroom explanation of what it is and the effect it has. This gives the whole class the same level of understanding and the opportunity to realise that they may themselves be being subjected to cyber bullying, that friends may be suffering or that someone recognises that their actions are those of a bully in the way they have been treating someone.

End this classroom time with a survey to ascertain if the underpinning knowledge has been attained and the action individual pupils now know they can make if they are being bullied or they know someone who is.

2. Collaborative working

A research project to look at the effects of cyber bullying will help the class work together and to increase teamwork skills. It will also bind those who are perhaps having issues and the project results can combine a mixture of online information and any personal experiences if perhaps they know someone who has been bullied in the past or is currently being bullied through the internet or mobile phone and how they will now help.

3. Background work

The classroom shouldn’t have any opportunity for cyber bullying to take place. The use of mobile phones during lesson time should be strictly forbidden and action taken against those who flout the rule. Computers must have filtering software installed and as far as is possible, access to sites such as social media platforms should be blocked so pupils are unable to log on and bully others whilst in school.

4. Build activities into different subjects

The reduction of cyber bullying is one which should be looked at regularly across a number of subjects. Whether it’s English, IT, Drama or perhaps even Art, the problem of cyber bullying can be discussed, written about, acted or painted with each different curriculum area giving the opportunity for seamless inclusion of the issue.

5. Suggestions for lesson planning

Once the topic has been introduced, there are a number of angles the subject can then be tackled. Depending on the year group, activities could include:

  • Avatars and online identities
  • The virtual world versus real life
  • Social participation; the creation of anti-cyber bullying rules within a school
  • Online privacy and understanding ethical behaviour

Unfortunately, bullying is impossible to remove from society but there are many steps which can be taken to promote a proactive and visible solution to the situation when it arises. If pupils know it won’t be tolerated and that the disciplinary outcome will be difficult for the bully to escape, there’s every chance that it can in some way be reduced throughout the school.

In turn, this can help with the times when it takes place most often; out of school time when the pupil will then have the tools to deal with the issue if faced with it or a friend feels the need to help out if they know someone is suffering.