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Cyberbullying: A whole-school community issue

Responding to Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a form of bullying, and therefore all schools should already be equipped to deal with the majority of cases through their existing anti-bullying policies and procedures. This section outlines key steps to take when responding to cyberbullying.

Supporting the person being bullied

Give reassurance that the person has done the right
thing by telling someone, refer to any existing pastoral support/procedures and inform parents.

  • Advise on next steps:
    • Make sure the person knows not to retaliate or return the message.
    • Ask the person to think about what information they have in the public domain.
    • Help the person to keep relevant evidence for any investigation (e.g. by not deleting messages
      they’ve received, and by taking screen capture shots and noting web addresses of online
      cyberbullying instances).
    • Check the person understands simple ways to prevent it from happening again, e.g. by changing contact details, blocking contacts or leaving a chatroom.
  • Take action to contain the incident when content has been circulated:
    • If you know who the person responsible is, ask them to remove the content;
    • Contact the host (e.g. the social networking site) to make a report to get the content taken down.
      Use disciplinary powers to confiscate phones that are being used to cyberbully. Ask the pupil to tell you who they have sent messages on to.
    • In cases of illegal content, contact the police, who can determine what needs to be kept for evidential purposes.

Investigating incidents

All bullying incidents should be properly recorded and investigated. Cyberbullying can be a very serious matter and can constitute a criminal offence. In UK law, there are criminal laws that can apply in terms of harassment or threatening and menacing communications.

  • Advise pupils and staff to try and keep a record of the bullying as evidence. It can be useful to show parents, teachers, pastoral care staff and the police, if necessary, what has happened.
  • Take steps to identify the bully, including looking at the school systems, identifying and interviewing possible witnesses, and contacting the service provider and the police, if necessary. The police will need to be involved to enable the service provider to look into the data of another user.

Working with the bully and sanctions

Once the person bullying is identified, steps should be taken to change their attitude and behaviour as well as ensuring access to any support that is required. Factors to consider when determining the appropriate
sanctions include:

  • The impact on the victim: was the bully acting anonymously, was the material widely circulated
    and humiliating, how difficult was controlling the spread of the material?
  • The motivation of the bully: was the incident unintentional or retaliation to bullying behaviour from others?

Technology-specific sanctions for pupils engaged in cyberbullying behaviour could include limiting internet access for a period of time or removing the right to bring a mobile into school.

"Thankfully, my son’s school was very helpful: they identified the child who posted the video from another video he had posted; they have disciplined the other child and had him remove the video."
A parent

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