Annual survey reveals surge in cyber-bullying inside our schools

Generic picture of cyber bullying / bebo / websitePhoto:Antony KellyCopy:For: EN NEWSEN pics © 2008(

Generic picture of cyber bullying / bebo / websitePhoto:Antony KellyCopy:For: EN NEWSEN pics © 2008(01603) 772434 - Credit: Evening News © 2008

A survey of more than 5,000 Norfolk children has revealed a surge of cyber-bullying inside our schools.

According to an annual poll of 10 to 15-year-olds in the county, 38pc had been bullied in school during the previous year.

Of these, more than a third have experienced cyber-bullying at school – up from 13pc in 2009.

However, there was more encouraging news on physical, verbal and racist bullying, which have all become less common in the last six years. Homophobic bullying rose slightly in the same period. Rita Adair, senior lead educational psychologist at Norfolk County Council, said the findings reflected national trends, but the increase in cyber-bullying was 'clearly the most worrying of all the statistics'.

She singled out a 'massive increase' in text message bullying.

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In the last two years alone, the proportion of those who said they had experienced cyber-bullying via text message rose from 46pc to 57pc.

This year, the next most common forms were bullying through social networking sites (33pc), instant messaging (27pc) and chat rooms (23pc).

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Ms Adair said: 'I think cyber-bullying is a very scary form of bullying, because you don't necessarily know who is bullying you. It's 24/7, which is very different to face-to-face bullying, where you could be bullied at school and come home and be safe. In the cyber world you can be attacked at any time, which makes it very scary for young people.'

Although more than two-thirds of pupils said their schools dealt with bullying very or quite well, the figure had fallen slightly since 2010, from 70pc to 68pc.

Ms Adair said schools were holding training sessions for staff, but 10-year-olds had proved better than 15-year-olds at using safety mechanisms in the online world.

She said: 'One of the problems for us is that it does not seem to be just an issue about teaching children e-safety. It's something about them choosing, for whatever reason, not to use it, even though they know it could keep them safe. The answer is not to take away the technology from people, but about making sure young people know how to keep safe. They need to use their mobiles and computers to keep in touch with people, and use a variety of different ways.

'Adults may be restricted to using Facebook, Twitter, email and texting, but young people are using such a variety of means to contact their friends that one of the key difficulties is the gap in knowledge between the young and older generations about what they are doing.' However, she said one encouraging thing about the figures was an increased awareness about cyber-bullying among schoolchildren.

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