As we rapidly advance technologically, bullying is shifting from the playground to online. Tweens and teenagers are online now more than ever and ‘online communication’ is now a major form of communication for adolescents. This unfortunately opens up opportunities for cyberbullying. Laura Driver, a representative of LVS Ascot, a private school in Berkshire shares more information about this worrying trend, and what this means for our children. Over to Laura…
Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that involves technology and takes place over social media, smartphones, computers, laptops, E-Mails, text messages and online apps, using them as tools and weapons. However, the term applies only to minors and is termed ‘cyber-harassment’ instead, when it happens to adults. Cyberbullying effects are damaging and destructive, leading to psychological, emotional and physical stress. If cyberbullied, children are more likely to experience a drop in grades, self esteem issues, anxiety, depression, fear, humiliation and suicidal thoughts.
Cyberbullying incidents typically involve girls more often than boys and take many different forms as shown by the following cyberbullying terms:
This list of cyberbullying examples above is not exhaustive and children with special needs are more vulnerable to it and have a higher risk of being bullied and cyber-bullied. Children with autism for example, may need additional support to know whether someone is joking or bullying. The National Autistic Society states that due to communication impairments, autistic children on the spectrum may not truly understand they are being bullied and may copy the acts of bullies. Some children that are bullied, start to bully others too, out of learned behaviour or to try and make themselves feel better. Some autistic children may become frustrated at being left out of social situations (whether through bullying or by accident) and try to force children to become friends with them.
Cyberbullying statistics show that 34% of students have experienced cyberbullying and each year amongst young people, there are roughly 4,400 deaths each year caused by bullying. When it comes to cyberbullying laws, there is little legislation in place. Cyberbullying is a relatively new crime as it involves technology such as using smartphones and social media which has only been around the last decade or so. But, there’s plenty that schools (including special needs schools) can do to prevent and manage cyberbullying. Having an anti-bullying policy in place, with cyberbullying education is a great place to start.
Teresa Gold, E-Safety Administrator at private school Windsor LVS Ascot (which also has two SEN schools LVS Hassocks and LVS Oxford) says that:
“LVS advises students that when sharing and collaborating online, they should consider the importance of treating communications with the same care they would a face-to-face conversation. As well as knowing how to manage their own behaviour, they are given opportunities to provide guidance and advice to their peers and younger pupils. The use of mobile phones during the school day is restricted to allow a focus on learning and face-to-face communication with friends. LVS strives to create an ethos of respect and consideration for all, both in the real and online worlds through policies and practices within the pastoral and curriculum programmes. LVS take all instances of bullying extremely seriously and there is no tolerance of any type of bullying, including cyberbullying. Any pupils found doing so receive one of the school’s most serious sanctions, decided by the Principal. While all bullying is dealt with through the Anti-Bullying Policy, there is a recognition of the increased use of technologies in this area and the implications of this.”
No doubt, managing cyberbullying is not easy. Restricting mobile and internet access for adolescents is not the way to go about it, as the bullying can still take place. As technology progresses, along with the popularity of ‘online communication’, educating adolescents about the dangerous effects of cyberbullying, especially towards those with special needs such as autism is the best way forward.