The issue of cyberbullying in the UK is approaching the scale of a national crisis. A 2017 study by the Guardian shows that almost half of girls in the UK are harassed online. Victims of cyberbullying are twice as likely to engage in self-harming behaviours, including suicide attempts.
It is not only the victims who are at risk. With cyberbullying behaviour linked to in-person bullying and other forms of relational aggression, mental health problems and even criminal behaviour in later life, it is essential that teachers take steps to help both victims of cyberbullying and the bullies themselves.
There are no UK laws that specifically target cyberbullying, however, the behaviour of a cyberbully often breaches a myriad of other laws. These include:
Many of the behaviours that constitute cyberbullying are serious crimes and the perpetrators will be dealt with accordingly.
The penalties for committing a crime under most of these acts range from:
It is vital that teachers identify and prevent cyberbullying wherever it occurs in order to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their pupils.
However, due to the anonymity of the web and the fact that the behaviour often occurs outside school hours it can be extremely difficult to know if cyberbullying is taking place. Teachers are therefore advised to monitor pupils’ classroom behaviour for signs.
In young people, the following may indicate that they are the victim of a cyberbully:
If one of your pupils comes to you because they have become the victim of a cyberbully, there are several steps that you can take:
Remember that the personal relationship between you and the pupil being targeted is hugely important. Provide them with support and ensure that they see you as a supportive and non-judgemental figure.
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