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Tackling online bullying needs a two-pronged approach

It's up to teachers and parents to recognise the signs of cyber bullying, and to nip it in the bud, says Philip Woods

Posted by Hannah Oakman | June 21, 2016 | E-safety

Do you think most teachers are aware of and can recognise cyber bullying threats?

I’m sure that all teachers are aware of the threat of cyber bullying. Sadly, from a technology perspective. Social media platforms are constantly evolving, so it can be challenging for anyone to keep up with the threat, let alone teachers, who are busy enough already.

How can schools ensure that all staff receive appropriate online safety training?

This has to be a two pronged approach. Schools must deploy the very best web filtering and security appliances that maintain an evolving database of potential threats, both from a web (http/https) perspective and at application level so non web based platforms can be managed. I also believe teachers should receive fundamental training on how to monitor proper device use in the classroom. It is not reasonable to expect teachers to police the use of technology completely.

The teachers’ expertise is education and they have the students’ welfare at heart. The most appropriate training that they can receive beyond the technology is how to recognise warning signs in the behaviour amongst children.

Would you say that most children are now aware of potential online dangers? What can we do to highlight them further?

As technology becomes more accessible, we’re exposing students as early as key stage one to the dangers of online use. Kids have little concept of the potential threat of chatting with fellow players about their current favourite game.

Whilst this should be manageable in class with certain security measures in place, there’s a huge responsibility on schools to follow up and educate parents in the ways that they can maintain a safe cyber environment for children out of school. All modern IT platforms have levels of parental control, but all too often parents are unaware or unable to use them.

How can we get children more involved in anti-bullying campaigns online and offline?

I think parents are the key. If schools can get parents involved in education and more awareness campaigns, I believe it it will inevitably cascade down to the children. If we share deeper knowledge in relation to managing technology and monitoring warning signs in children, we will ensure that the awareness campaigns work harder. 

Can parents now also recognise the potential dangers? How can we educate and support parents with online safety?

It’s hard for us to judge as we work in the ‘IT bubble’. However, we recognise parents must have a significant appetite for this type of education. A few after hours’ sessions focussed around general topics and platform specific advice (device restrictions on iPads for example) would act as a great jump start to parents who are looking for help.

Can teachers and parents realistically keep up with tech-savvy children, and therefore, protect them from cyberbullying threats?

Both teachers and parents have to rely on technology provided by reputable companies to provide the tools to keep children’s networks and devices safe. In most cases these protection systems need to be deliberately enabled because they’re turned off by default. Fundamentally there will always be a way for determined bullies to use technology as a platform for their abhorrent behaviour. Ultimately, it’s up to teachers and parents to recognise the signs and nip it in the bud.

Philip Woods is Director at KRCS Group

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