‘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.
Finding out about internet safety
Pupils at a Dereham school have put online safety at the heart of their studies.
A class of 10 and 11-year-olds surveyed 100 of their peers at St Nicholas Junior School to find out about their online habits.
The questions centred on the social media website Facebook; how many of the children at the school held an account, and why.
The legal age to use the website is 13 – but almost 30pc of the nine to 11-year-olds questioned had a log-in to the page despite the age restriction.
Teacher Tim Ecclestone said internet safety was an important topic.
“Just because the young people have the skills to use the machines is doesn’t mean they will have the skills to be safe. That’s why we have to hammer the safety message home,” he said.
“It is a worry, so the more we can teach about e-safety, the better.
“Cyberbullying is a big issue. Now they all have smart-phones and tablets they can be in their bedrooms and still people can take advantage of them.”
Amber Macey, 10, doesn’t have a Facebook account.
She said she was surprised by the results of her classes survey and wouldn’t have expected it.
“The dangers of Facebook are that you could get cyberbullied or harmful adults could do something and pretend they are someone they are not.
“I will get Facebook when I am older because I would want to keep up with my friends.”
All of the youngsters who were on Facebook said they were not “friends” with people they did not know and many of them logged on regularly to talk to their friends and to play games.
And the majority of the youngsters questioned said they did not think Facebook was suitable for children.
Elise Steward, 11, said the age for Facebook should be at least 16.
“I think it is wrong for people to be on Facebook even at 14,” she said.
“There could be people you don’t know online and that could be dangerous.
“The survey told us more what Facebook was about and gave us different ideas on how to be safe when we are older.”
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.
What to do and not to do:
- Never tell anyone any personal information on social media sites.
- Never give out addresses or phone numbers.
- Don’t post any photos or videos you wouldn’t be happy for other people to see.
- Keep passwords private and don’t tell anyone – not even friends.
Bullying on mobile phones:
- Mobile phone operators can’t stop or block a particular number from contacting another phone, but it can be done on some types of phone. Check your phone user guide to see if yours can.
- Don’t reply to negative messages and don’t answer any calls from a withheld number, or from unknown numbers.
- Talk to a trusted adult if you have any concerns.
- If the problem is serious, tell the police or call Childline. You can call them on 0800 1111 or online at www.childline.org.uk
“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