‘Cyberbullying has changed the face of bullying. It’s become much more complex an issue to deal with’ – Norfolk expert on the 87pc rise in the online abuse
06:00 16 January 2014
Archant © 2014
A leading expert has said the face of bullying in Norfolk has been transformed by the internet – making it one of the most complex issues in a generation.
Childline reported an 87pc rise in nationwide calls about online abuse in the past year – with young people telling the charity that the 24 hour nature of cyberbullying makes them feel there is no escape.
Rita Adair, the senior lead educational physiologist at Norfolk County Council, said the county has been “ahead of the game” in recognising the abuse on social media websites and through mobile phones and reacting to it.
But she said there must a realisation that there have been big changes in the way young people use technology and educators must not be complacent in reacting.
“I have been working in bullying work for more than 20-years and I believe cyberbullying has changed the face of bullying. It’s become much more complex an issue to deal with,” she said.
“With face-to-face [bullying] it is much easier to find out who the perpetrators are, whereas cyberbullying can be 24/7. It’s becoming more and more complex.”
ChildLine’s Can I Tell You Something? report shows a new and worrying trend for teenagers to contact the service about issues such as self-harm, suicide and online bullying.
What was once happening only in the school playground has now spilled over in to young people’s homes and social lives and Ms Adair said young people and their parents needed to recognise that if there was cyberbullying, they needed to talk about it.
A recent survey by Norfolk County Council found that with the rise of young people having tablets and mobile phones about 96pc of 11-19-year-olds are using the internet to communicate.
Yet one of the bullying team’s main concerns is that a generation who have never been cyberbullied are in charge of supporting the children who may be abused online.
Ms Adair said this was a concern because older generations did not have as much understanding of using the technology in the way younger people used it.
“We have worked really hard in Norfolk. It’s been made clear to schools they should be thinking seriously about cyberbullying, as well as providing a whole range of training,” she said. “We don’t want to stop children using technology because it’s a wonderful and powerful tool but we want them to be safe.”
Legally every school must have measures in place to stop bullying online and Ofsted now checks to see if they are in place when inspecting schools.
The Department for Education have said the new curriculum starting in September this year will teach youngsters how to stay safe online from the age of five.
And teachers now have greater powers to tackle bullying – they can search pupils for banned items, delete inappropriate images from phones and give out same day detentions.
Have you got an education story? Email Martin George on firstname.lastname@example.org