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It’s a sad fact that bullying has always been a part of school life. Schools work hard to identify and address the issue in partnership with parents and organisations which specialise in eradicating bullying, but the magic bullet of how to make bullying disappear is yet to be found.

The way bullying takes place has also changed. Whilst it still happens in physical confrontations, there’s now the growing issue of cyber bullying through online and mobile phone interaction. These are just as threatening and stressful situations for the child being bullied to be able to cope with and to know what to do and it’s often a new area of awareness for teachers to experience in how to identify what to look for in a possible cyber bullying situation.

Knowing what cyber bullying is

Cyber bullying takes on a number of guises. Some victims are intimidated purely through the internet, texts and calls whilst some are subjected to an extension of face-to-face bullying.

Some ways cyber bullying is carried out:

  • Cyber-stalking (repeated texts, instant messages or calls)
  • Online impersonation
  • Unauthorised publication of private messages or images
  • Direct threats and intimidation
  • Defamation through mediums such as social media sites

Recognising the symptoms of cyber bullying taking place

Whilst much of cyber bullying take place whilst the pupil is at home, it can spill over into when they are at school so it’s vital that it isn’t ignored by schools and their teachers.

Research has shown that 20% of all 10-18 year olds have admitted that at some point they have been – or currently are being – cyber bullied. It’s when jokes turn bad on Facebook and when a student is repeatedly harassed, mistreats or makes fun of something that it stops being harmless fun and becomes something much more sinister. For those who were bullied, the most commonly reported problems are the cyber bully being mean and the posting of hurtful comments in public places online such as social media sites or forums and the spreading of rumours through texts and instant messaging.

Changes to look out for in a student that they are a victim of cyberbullying include:

  • Increasingly withdrawn
  • Depression
  • Standard of work dropping
  • Change of relationship amongst peers; does the pupil now stand on their own in the corridor or eat separately at lunchtimes?
  • Faking of illness such as stomach ache
  • Pupil not wanting to attend school

The most important action a teacher can take when told about cyber bullying by the victim is to listen and to take what is being said seriously. Ask the person being bullied not to delete messages from their phone or sites, to take screenshots and to then share them with the teacher or another adult if they don’t feel comfortable showing their teacher.

Many cyber bullies flourish through the power of anonymity so work with the victim to be able to stand up to the person by responding that what they are saying doesn’t affect them and encourage their circle of friends to add posts to say that the hurtful messages are not cool.

Teachers have the tools to be proactive and to work with pupils to look at preventing cyber bullying rather than waiting for it to happen. Re-enforcing the message that the bully is not a person to look up to by their peers and it’s not the fault of the victim helps with the rights and wrongs of the situation.

A bully acts through deliberate actions to be mean and hurtful and they see lashing out as their own pressure valve.  Recognising symptoms as soon as possible, sharing the evidence with those who can help and teaching proactive classroom activities surrounding the issue are steps to breaking the cycle of pain and this  helps everyone to become more aware of how they should react if they know someone is suffering.