Bullying seems to have been with us for as long as there have been schools – and what sometimes disappoints in not the seemingly inevitable fact that it happens, but how few schools and parents are able to tackle it.
That issue is made more difficult by the newer manifestations of bullying – the cyber kind that can happen on a growing range of social and digital media – Instagram, Snapchat, What’sApp and so on…
So what can schools, parents and, indeed, the children themselves do about it? Here are the 14 ways that all three can tackle cyberbullying.
1 Adopt a demonstrably zero-tolerance policy for bullying of all kinds. It should be abundantly clear that any form of intimidation, harassment, or threat will be dealt with swiftly and seriously. And when it does occur, follow through …
2 Schools, districts and education authorities should have that zero-tolerance codified in anti-bullying policies that everyone in the school community are made aware of.
3 Teach digital citizenship and internet safety in the classroom. When pupils are more aware of their rights and responsibilities, they are more likely to behave accordingly.
4 Have regular sessions with pupils, parents and teachers discussing bullying prevention. Keep the issue ‘alive’ with everyone.
5 Keep the computer in a shared space in the home – the living room or the kitchen perhaps. Don’t let them hide away in their bedrooms online. Monitor their usage and keep an eye on them as they use their device.
6 Learn about the spaces they inhabit – the social media platforms they engage on. If you know how Snapchat, What’sApp and so on work, you’ll understand where the danger points are. Ask, where you can, to see their profile pages.
7 Talk with your children about online issues, and make it clear that they can come to you for advice and support.
8 Set rules and time limits for your kids. Explain why – that you’re concerned for their online safety – and ask them to help set those rules. But don’t threaten to confiscate their laptops or phones if they are the victims of bullying.
9 Make sure your children don’t respond to cyberbullying – but that they don’t delete either. That will enable you to keep the messages, and indications of the identity of the bully.
10 If your kids are being bullied, don’t assume they ‘brought it on themselves’ somehow. Be supportive and understanding and help them, and the school, find a solution. And don’t ever tell them to ‘man up’ or ‘get over it’.
11 If it escalates to physical threats or violence, don’t be afraid to call in the police.
12 Don’t respond to threats, but don’t delete the messages either. Keep them and show your parents or teachers and they can use them to track down the bullies.
13 Don’t help other bully people, or stand by if you know it’s happening – report it.
14 If you’re being bullied – don’t hesitate. Report it.
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