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Support for Schools to Help Tackle Cyber-Bullying

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With the ever-increasing use of technology and social media, Childline has discovered that children and young people are being bullied in more ways, more frequently and at a younger age than ever before.

Many schools ban mobile phones and social networking sites, however, the technology a child brings into the classroom can be used in a positive way and facilitate lasting improvements in pupils' behaviour and safety.

Tupton Hall School, Derbyshire uses Contact Group's 'Text Someone', an anti-bullying solution encouraging young people to report via text and email incidents of bullying directly to schools.

Martin Ebbage, deputy head, said: "Children often 'talk with their thumbs' and texting provides them with a familiar medium to communicate issues they might otherwise find difficult."

He explains: "The technology has provided a mechanism where parents and friends can report a situation on behalf of someone else.

"We want to keep up with the times and encourage staff to use Twitter so there is another form of communication open to students."

Dr Joe Dawson, Principal Educational Psychologist at Leicester City Council, developed the technology for use in its schools. He believes there is reluctance among pupils to report bullying face to face. Therefore, texting and emailing would help to improve the amount of incidences reported.

He said: "Over 94% of schools train in the use of Text Someone and are pleased that the technology gives them a robust system in place to report bullying."

The use of art and creativity is also considered to be an essential tool in helping create positive relationships amongst students.

Projects such as the Artis programme are available for schools and encourage teaching the curriculum through the arts.

Artis chief executive Rebecca Boyle Suh says: "One of the most important factors when it comes to addressing bullying is that children respect one another.

"When children collaborate and share their work through arts activities, their confidence grows and they are happier to work with everyone in their class.

"This mindset transfers to the playground, helping schools create a positive culture and reduce bullying."

The tragic death of 15-year-old Amanda Todd, whose suicide is believed to be attributed to cyber-bullying, has urged authorities to reintroduce inspection frameworks that recognise children are growing up in a digitalised age.

Ofsted is placing unprecedented emphasis on e-safety, and safeguarding tools are available which protect pupils from cyber-bullying, online grooming and harmful images and websites.

Securus Software monitors activity through screen captures and alerts schools to anything that suggests a child may be at risk.

Facebook and ChildLine are collaborating in an anti-bullying initiative, 'The Step Up: Stop Bullying'

campaign, including an app offering guidance, tools and people who can help.

Sue Minto, Head of ChildLine, said: "We believe in the power of friends to help prevent bullying.

"The most powerful safety feature of social networks is being social."

According to the NSPCC, 18% of young people worried about bullying said they would not talk to their parents and are under pressure to remain silent.

Anita Chopra, education law specialist and partner at Match Solicitors, said: "Parents are encouraged to follow internal complaints procedures and to put concerns in writing.

"The reality of the situation is that this avenue offers little by way of a resolution for the child."

ChildLine reported an increased in cyber-bullying. Internet and mobile-based bullying is up 7 per cent overall with mobile up by 11 per cent.

Ben Collingwood, employment lawyer and schools specialist at Barlow Robbins LLP comments: "Playground bullying may be simple to detect, however, the increasing use of online social media by children, means bullying online has become more prevalent and may be more difficult to detect or monitor."

Ofsted found that schools with a strong curriculum extended an effective approach by carefully and continually adapting their curriculum and introducing initiatives in response to the school's changing circumstances.

It seems a key element in developing school policies is increasing awareness of the need to shift the burden of responsibility to report away from children, putting the onus on schools and authorities to prevent incidences and protect victims.

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