School bullying patterns have evolved in recent years. While forms of abuse such as verbal teasing and physical bullying still take place, some of the most upsetting and threatening forms of bullying occur online – a phenomenon commonly known as cyberbullying.

According to recent stats from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), almost 20% of children aged 10-15 years old have experienced cyberbullying, nearly three quarters of whom experienced such bullying during school time. Smoothwall, a leading provider of Digital Monitoring software to UK schools, also found in their latest research that every 22 minutes, a child is involved in a very serious cyberbullying, bullying or violence incident online. With this in mind, we’ve collated a brief guide to help governors support school leaders in tackling this complex issue.

What does cyberbullying involve?

 Cyberbullying encompasses a wide range of abusive actions, including (but not limited to):

  • Creating and/or sharing images or videos designed to humiliate or embarrass someone.
  • Excluding peers from online activities such as multi-player games or chat groups.
  • Shaming someone via public or private online platforms.
  • Sending unsolicited sexual content.
  • Pressuring others into sending sexual content or engaging in sexual conversations.
  • Encouraging other people to harm themselves.
  • Sending threatening or upsetting messages via online channels.
  • Sending threatening or upsetting SMS messages.
  • Stealing someone’s online identity.
  • Creating abusive hate sites about a specific person.

How can governors tackle cyberbullying?

Unsurprisingly, cyberbullying is at risk of going under the radar in schools. Policing online activity is tricky, and – as digital natives – young people tend to be more tech-savvy than their teachers. However, while these factors make bullying incidents difficult to track and address, there are steps schools can take to minimize the damaging effects of online abuse. Here are a few key areas to consider when discussing bullying during board meetings:

  1. Ensure staff members know what cyberbullying looks like

Staff must understand what cyberbullying looks like to effectively address the issue. As such, it’s worth asking school leaders whether they have provisions in place to educate staff about the types of negative behaviours that may occur in and out of school. Questions to ask may include:

  • Are there any available training courses that could help teachers tackle online bullying?
  • Is such training mandatory?
  • Do staff members know how and where to report incidents of cyberbullying?
  1. Check whether the school has adequate safeguarding technologies in place

There are many edtech solutions out there to help manage and monitor the online activity that takes place in schools. Smoothwall, for example, offers a real-time digital monitoring solution to detect cyberbullying and facilitate early intervention.

As Katherine Howard, Smoothwall’s Head of Safeguarding and Education Practice explains: “Many clues exist inside a student’s digital world that indicate if a child is a victim of bullying, to which parents and schools have little, if any access. These clues are therefore invisible.

Digital monitoring technology plays a key role in making these invisible risks, visible. Smoothwall Monitor uses both AI (Artificial Intelligence) and expertly trained human moderators, to help spot such risks. It helps schools and colleges detect problems, respond to issues they were unaware of, and help individuals who haven’t previously been shown to be at risk.

Essentially, this form of monitoring creates a safety net for teachers and safeguarding teams, who, in a busy classroom, may be unable to see what is happening online.

  1. Does the school nurture an inclusive culture?

The best way to tackle cyberbullying is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Nurturing a caring school culture will help stem cyberbullying and encourage young people to respect one another online. Questions to ask school leaders may include:

  • Has the school updated its anti-bullying and behaviour policies to account for contemporary forms of cyberbullying? How often are such policies reviewed?
  • Are there provisions in place to educate young people about the harms of online bullying? Are these covered in PSHE? Are safety covered in computing lessons? Are there any external organisations that could provide expert assistance?
  • Are incident reporting protocols clear and easy to follow?

Keen to support young people in your community? Volunteer as a governor today!

As you can see, governors play a vital role in overseeing anti-bullying provisions in schools and protecting children from threats posed by our increasingly digital world. If you’re feeling inspired to help, why not apply for a governor role today? One of our friendly team members will walk you through the application process.

Already a governor?

Gain practical support, build your confidence, and ensure you are prepared to tackle bullying by joining our webinar in collaboration with anti-bullying charity Kidscape Monday, 14th November 2022 at 5pm.

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