New guidance to meet school cyberbullying worries

Young person on computer
Image caption Head teachers said cyberbullying was of increasing concern

Cyberbullying in schools is the subject of new guidance being issued by the Welsh government.

With more youngsters than ever using smartphones and social networks, the updated advice is aimed at protecting both teachers and pupils.

Teachers said they are increasingly worried about cyberbullying, not helped by the "dizzying speed" of developing technology.

Ministers said everyone in education must take action to prevent bullying.

'Quicker to catch on'

Anna Brychan, director of head teachers' union NAHT Cymru said: "We're especially pleased with the focus on cyberbullying which is an increasing concern and which can have a devastating impact on pupils and teachers who are targeted.

"It is getting harder and harder to monitor children's interaction with each other because of the dizzying speed of developments in new technologies and social networking sites.

"Children are almost always quicker to catch on than the adults around them. Parents as well as schools need to develop better antennae in dealing with this. We hope this new guidance will help."

Published on Monday, the Respecting Others document focuses on five forms of bullying where discrimination against others is involved.

These are:

  • Bullying around race, religion and culture
  • Bullying around special educational needs and disabilities
  • Homophobic bullying
  • Sexist, sexual and transphobic bullying
  • Cyberbullying

The guidance offers practical advice on preventing and responding to incidents of bullying in schools so councils and teachers can develop strategies for dealing with it.

It deals with both the risks and benefits from new technology, with the scope ranging from chatrooms to gaming.

Claude Knights, director of children's charity Kidscape, said cyberbullying was affecting more and more young people.

Zero tolerance

She said: "This guidance is truly comprehensive as it explores the major forms of bullying in a practical manner.

"The zero tolerance approach to any form of bullying is to be welcomed, as is the clear emphasis on creating a safe and nurturing environment not only for pupils, but also for teachers and other members of the school community.

"Learning is most effective in a bully-free environment, and this new guidance provides sound building blocks for bully-proofing schools and other organisations.'

Education Minister Leighton Andrews said: "Schools can be fundamental in shaping character and preparing young people for the future.

"It is important that everyone involved in a pupil's education understands bullying in all its forms and takes action to prevent it, as well as responding to incidents when they occur."

He said the comprehensive new guidance follows recommendations from the National Behaviour Attendance Review.

Mr Andrews said the guidance had to reflect the advance in new technologies and the role they play in most young people's lives.

But schools also need to be aware how devices like smart phones and accounts on digital media sites like Facebook and Twitter can be abused to bully both teachers and pupils, he said.

Cyberstalking, where individuals are repeatedly sent texts or defamed on social networks is also an area of focus outlined in the framework.

"We are living in the 21st Century where technology is an important and ever-present part of our lives," said Mr Andrews.

"We recognise this, which is why we are publishing detailed guidance on cyberbullying, setting out the steps needed to protect both pupils and teachers."

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