In our technology-driven world, cyberbullying is fast becoming the bullying method of choice. Cyberbullying takes place via text messages, emails, instant messages, online forums, chat rooms, social networks etc. Because of the anonymous nature of this type of bullying, it can be difficult to trace the people responsible.
Cyberbullying can take place in the workplace as well as school and it is becoming increasingly common within the teaching profession. There have been a number of reported cases where abusive messages have been spread by email, Facebook and Twitter as well as other social networks. According to the NASUWT, one in four teachers have experienced cyberbullying and it has a serious affect on their health and wellbeing.
There are a number of steps that can be taken to protect against cyberbullying. One way is to ensure you only visit adequately moderated forums where abusive speech and aggression are not tolerated. However, the huge volume of texts and messages sent via social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and via mobile phones, makes it impossible to monitor fully.
It is important to provide clear guidelines on internet etiquette or ‘netiquette’ to all users of technology. Young people in particular need to understand the correct ways to interact while online or while texting. In fact, we would all find it useful to think about the following:
- If you were face to face with the person you are texting/messaging, would you use the same words/phrases?
- Would you be happy to allow your parent or teacher to read the text/message you are sending?
- Do you find it easier to say unkind or hurtful things via text/email/instant messaging?
- Is your message really necessary, and could it hurt or embarrass your friends, family or anyone else?
- What would you do if you received an unkind message or piece of gossip about someone else? Would you delete it or forward it to your friends/contacts?
It is vital that teachers and parents encourage young people to tell them about any incidents of cyberbullying that they know about. Even if they are not directly involved, they need to realise that all incidents of cyberbullying should be reported.