Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Half of children are cyber-bullied

Parents and teachers say they do not feel they are equipped to deal with the growing problem of cyber bullying
Parents and teachers say they do not feel they are equipped to deal with the growing problem of cyber bullying

More than half of children and young people in England accept cyber-bullying as a part of everyday life, a new survey has found.

But parents and teachers say they do not feel they are equipped to deal with the growing problem of internet abuse.

The major new survey, commissioned by the Anti-Bullying Alliance, underlines the struggle many families face trying to protect their children on the internet.

Campaigners warned that cyber bullying had become "an everyday problem for today's children" and demanded better education to tackle the phenomenon.

More than half of children polled - 55% - said cyber-bullying had become a part of life for children and young people, while 60.5% of parents also said it had.

Keeping their children safe online is a major worry for parents, with 49% complaining that the amount of access their child has to the internet leaves them struggling to monitor their behaviour online.

And 51% say this makes them scared for the safety of their child.

However, the poll suggests that many families would struggle to respond if their child did fall victim to internet abuse.

Some 40% of parents said they would not know how to respond if their child fell victim to cyber-bullies or how to set up filters on computers, tablets and mobile phones that could protect their children.

There were growing calls for online safety to be taught in more schools, with 69% of teachers and 40% of young people calling for it to be included in the national curriculum.

Nearly half of teachers - 43% - admitted their school did not currently teach anything about cyber-bullying and online safety and 44% admitted they did not know how to respond to cyber-bullying.

Almost a third - 32.1% - of young people said that teaching schools, parents and children about internet safety would be the biggest step that can be taken to tackle cyber-bullying, y et just a fifth of children felt they were taught enough about it at school.

Luke Roberts, National Co-ordinator of the Anti-Bullying Alliance, said cyber-bullying is one of the biggest issues facing young people today and called for the Government to ensure it is taught in all schools.

He said: "Our research shows that cyber-bullying is an everyday problem for today's children, but teachers and parents are not always able to provide the advice and support young people need.

"T he solution is better education, not only in the classroom but better training for teachers and support for parents. We need a collaborative approach to tackling cyber-bullying, so children themselves can take responsibility for their own safety online and know where to turn for help when things go wrong.

"If we get this right, and make cyber-bullying a thing of the past, our children will be able to enjoy a digital future that is safe, fun and connected."

He warned online bullying posed such a big threat to young people because it can spread quickly and easily and leave a permanent imprint in cyber space.

He said: "Cyber-bullying can move from online to off line and back online, that is why this conversation is so important.

"Verbal abuse may be the thing most young people encounter in terms of bullying, but cyber-bullying can be an extension of that abuse.

"The particular problem with cyber-bullying is that what would have been private conversation becomes a public display. This means the victim, as well as dealing with that initial harm that is caused by the hurtful language, also has to cope with the fact that everyone in their online communities known about that bullying, and that is really hard to deal with.

"Each time a new app or new social network site comes out it creates its own types of risks. My biggest concern is the anonymity attached to some of these sites, because it is far easier to bully people if you are anonymous."

He warned that cyber-bullying cannot be stopped by simply turning mobile phones and computers off, and called on the Government, parents and teachers to teach young people how to stay safe online.

He added: "It is not up to one area to take this on, it is up to the Government, parents and social networking sites. Everyone needs to come together."

:: The survey questioned 2,200 parents, children and teachers across England to launch anti-bullying week, which takes place from November 18 - 22.

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