Recommended approaches for preventing and tackling online (cyber) bullying.
What schools and settings should do to prevent online (cyber) bullying
Schools and settings should ensure there is a coordinated approach to bullying, including online bullying across the school so that all incidents are seen to be taken seriously.
Explicitly include online (cyber) bullying in the school or setting behaviour and anti-bullying policies and ensure that appropriate sanctions are put in place and communicated to the whole school community.
Ensure that the school or setting has an up-to-date online safety (e-Safety) policy in place and an appropriate designated online safety lead who works alongside other key members of staff.
Have clear acceptable use policies (AUPs) which state the rules and expectations for all members of the community regarding online behaviour and ensure that they are understood and respected by staff, pupils and parents and carers.
Ensure that all members of staff understand what online (cyber) bullying means, the different methods in which it can take place, the impact on those targeted and the school/settings policies and procedures.
Ensuring that staff are actively engaged in the online world and are role modelling positive online behaviour and communication.
Senior leadership teams should ensure that they are aware of and managing the schools online reputation and consider ways in which to prevent concerns.
Leaders and managers should be aware of how to respond to online bullying issues including where staff are the victims of online harassment.
All staff should encourage children, young people, staff and families to be aware of their responsibilities in ensuring they use ICT safely and responsibly.
All staff should educate pupils how to keep themselves safe online, including responding to online (cyber) bullying, by establishing an embedded and progressive online safety curriculum, which is supported with a range of approaches such as through displays, assemblies, peer support and the school and student council.
Engage with parents and carers about how they can help protect their children online.
Use a variety of techniques to resolve the issues between those who bully and those who have been bullied.
Regularly canvas children and young people's views on the extent and nature of online bullying.
Have clear internal reporting procedures to support those targeted and publicise the details of helplines and support websites and services.
Challenge any behaviour or practice which does not uphold the values of tolerance, non-discrimination and respect towards others online.
Proactively gather and record concerns and intelligence about bullying incidents and issues so as to effectively develop strategies to prevent bullying from occurring.
Ensure that the complaints procedure is shared with all members of the community regularly and implement a range of routes to encourage pupils and parents to raise concerns directly with the school, for example, ensuring a senior member of staff is available on the gate at morning and afternoon pick up time, using dedicated email accounts for reporting issues.
Other guidance which schools or settings may find helpful when considering managing online (cyber) bullying as a whole-school issue:
How schools and settings should respond to an online (cyber) bullying issue
The first response should be to support the target and reassure them that they have done the right thing by reporting the bullying. Staff should advise them how to deal with bullying appropriately for example how to block bullies or report the users to the website. They should be instructed to keep evidence by taking screen prints (including times, dates, names and locations if possible) or keeping messages and not to retaliate.
The school should then use existing pastoral systems and procedures to support the pupil or member of staff and should take action as identified in the schools anti-bullying policy.
If an offence may have been committed then the school should seek assistance from the police tel: 101. If it is an emergency (if someone is injured, in danger or there is a risk to someone's life) then the school should tel: 999.
If possible then the school should identify the bully, discuss the concern with them directly (with evidence where possible) and then take action and instigate sanctions in accordance with the relevant school policies (for example anti-bullying and behaviour).
The school should seek to take action to try and remove the content and contact service providers, local authority and police where relevant. It should be noted that in most cases the quickest way to have content removed is for the person who posted it to remove it as some service providers will only remove content which breaches the sites terms and conditions.
The school should also consider how to change the behaviour and attitude of the bully with the use of sanctions, education, restorative justice and support as appropriate. The incident (including action taken) should be logged and recorded in the schools anti-bullying and/or online safety (e-Safety) incident logs and records.
Following any cyberbullying incident the school should revisit and revisit policies, procedures and education approaches to identify if alternative action could be taken or to prevent a future occurrence.
If leaders and managers are dealing with issues relating to parents/carers or staff posting nasty, threatening or offensive content online then please contact the e-Safety officer directly for specific advice and guidance.
Advice for children and young people on how to deal with online (cyber) bullying
Always respect others on and offline. Think about what you say online and what images you send or post and be aware that online messages can easily be misunderstood.
Remember that anything you publish online can be made public very quickly and you will never be sure who may have seen it. Once something is posted you can lose control of who sees it and where it may end up.
Treat your password like a toothbrush. Never share it with anyone and only give your personal information like mobile phone number or email address to trusted friends. Be careful to log out of sites and apps if you share your device with others.
Learn how to block or report online bullies or anyone behaving badly and don't retaliate or reply to nasty messages! This is usually what the bullies are trying to get you to do. Remember that if you reply with a nasty or unkind comment then it could get you into trouble too.
Always make sure that you save evidence of online (cyber) bullying by saving or printing out text messages, online conversation, pictures. Try and include as much information as possible, such as web addresses (URLs), contact numbers, user names, times, dates, locations.
Always make sure you tell someone if you are being bullied online:
- tell an adult you trust or contact and organisation such as ChildLine
- tell the service provider, for example, website, app, mobile phone provider, where the bullying is taking place
- if a crime has been committed or someone is at risk of harm then contact the police.
If you see online (cyber) bullying going on, then support the victim and report it to the website or your school, don't be a bystander and say nothing otherwise you become part of the problem.
Advice for parents and carers on how to deal with online (cyber) bullying
Talk to your child and understand how they are using the internet and their phone.
Use safety tools and parental controls. If you're not sure how, contact your service provider but please note that these tools are not always 100% effective.
Be alert to your child being upset after using the internet or phones. They may be secretive, change relationships with friends. But be aware that your child is just as likely to be a bully as to be a target.
Role model positive online behaviour for your child. It's important that they know how to act safely and responsibly online and are aware of what content is acceptable and unacceptable to post or share.
If your child is a victim of online (cyber) bullying, remember, it's not their fault so removing the technology or banning them from websites could make them less likely to speak to you in the future if they experience a problem.
Remind your child not to retaliate to any online (cyber) bullying.
Work with the school to resolve the issue if other pupils are involved.
Keep any evidence of online (cyber) bullying, for example, emails, online conversations, texts, screen prints of sites or chat messages. Try to include time and dates and even locations where possible.
Report online (cyber) bullying immediately:
- Contact the service provider (for example, the website, gaming site or mobile phone company) to report the user and if possible to remove the content.
- If the bullying is being perpetrated by other pupils then contact the school so they can take action in accordance with their anti-bullying and behaviour policies.
- If the bullying is serious and a potential criminal offence has been committed then consider contacting the police.
Useful links for children, young people and parents and carers:
Advice for staff to help protect against online (cyber) bullying
Keep all passwords and login details secret from pupils, friends, family and colleagues and make sure you understand how to secure any websites or social networking services.
Always think carefully before you post. Don't post any information (such as photos, videos and comments) online that you wouldn't want employers, colleagues, pupils or parents to see. Be aware that just because your profile is set to 'private' or 'friends only', it doesn't mean that someone else can't copy or share it without your knowledge.
Manage your digital reputation. Always consider if content posted online could bring you, your school or someone else's reputation into disrepute. The teachers standards is clear in the expectation that teachers will not bring the profession or institution into disrepute and this includes online behaviour. Posting something unsafe, inappropriate, obscene or threatening online could lead to criminal, civil and/or disciplinary action.
All members of staff are strongly recommended not to add or friend pupils (past or present) or their parents or carers on any personal social networking accounts. Discuss any issues or exceptions with this (for example any pre-existing relationships) with the school online safety coordinator or your line manager.
Keep all personal information (phone numbers, email addresses, locations) private.
Do not use your own personal devices or personal social networking profiles to contact pupils or parents and carers. Communication with pupils and families and colleagues should always be professional and be transparent and open to scrutiny and should therefore take place via official school communication channels or using official school equipment.
Keep any personal devices such as mobile phones secure (possibly switched off) whilst on school premises. Make sure you understand how your device works and which features could make you vulnerable (for example, keep your Bluetooth switched off or hidden).
Ensure that the school's rules and policies regarding the use of technologies by pupils and staff are enforced. Make sure you read and understand the schools online safety (e-Safety) policy and procedures.
Do not personally retaliate to any incidents which involve yourself or other members of staff.
Always report any incidents of online bullying witnessed (either of yourself or other staff members) to the designated member of staff and/or website or service provider where bullying took place if appropriate, in a timely manner.
Check with your union to see if they offer any guidance or support about online bullying and professional behaviour online.
Make sure you save and keep any evidence of online bullying, for example screen prints to show to your line manager and/or the police. Where possible record times, dates and user names.
Staff and leaders working in Derbyshire schools and settings can access specific support using the Professional Online Safety Helpline.