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1. Understanding Cyberbullying

1.2 THE CONTEXT: YOUNG PEOPLE AND TECHNOLOGY

The role of technology in young people’s everyday lives

1.2.1Today’s children and young people have grown up in a world that is very different from that of most adults. Subsequently, how young people use technology is not always understood by parents, carers and staff members.

1.2.2Digital media, computers, mobile phones and the internet have been a taken-for-granted part of most children and young people’s upbringing and environment. Many rely on technology not just to keep in touch, but as a way of developing their identities, socialising, and belonging to groups. Technology can play a positive, productive and creative part of young people’s activities, development and social participation.

1.2.3 Engagement with technology involves feelings as well as actions – above all it is a social activity that allows young people to feel connected to their peers. Telling a young person who has been cyberbullied to keep their mobile phone switched off or to stay off the internet can be interpreted as a disruption of their social life and perceived as a punishment.

1.2.4 Barring or restricting school network access to particular sites that young people use, such as social networking and gaming sites, does not necessarily prevent young people from using them. They will still access them, via their own devices and connections, by bypassing blocks, or by finding new, unrestricted sites.  Whatever policies and practices individual schools might have around computer access, mobile phones, or game consoles, it is important to recognise how important technology is to young people. Education and discussion around responsible use and e-safety is key to helping them deal confidently with any problems that may arise, whether in or out of school.

Adults are not always aware of how technologies can be used and abused

1.2.5Teacher training is changing to incorporate and account for e-safety issues, and to equip new teachers with the information they need to make the most of technologies to support their learning and teaching practice. The Government’s e-strategy supports ICT for continuing professional development for both teachers and leaders. Recently, Becta have become the Government’s key partner in the strategic delivery and implementation of the strategy. There are many partner agencies working at national, regional and local level to support the best use and understanding of technology to support learning and teaching.

1.2.6 Technology constantly changes, and the pace of change can be off-putting for adults: new sites, crazes and fashions come and go continually. It may seem daunting or demanding of time that just isn't available to keep up with what young people are doing.

1.2.7 As technology develops, children will be experimenting with new environments and exploring where the boundaries of behaviour lie. In order to engage in a discussion about acceptable and responsible use, it is necessary to be informed about these technologies, in order to help identify where the limits are and what the potential impacts of certain behaviours are. It is not necessary to know about every application or site – but it is important to keep up to date with a broad understanding of the different ways that young people are using or abusing, technologies.

1.2.8 Understanding children and young people’s online lives and activities can help adults respond to situations appropriately and effectively. Talking to students about what they do with technology, and what their concerns and experiences are, is an essential starting point. Asking children and young people to show adults how technologies and services work is a useful strategy that can provide an important learning opportunity and context for discussing online safety.