10 signs your students are experiencing cyberbullying

Here are 10 warning signs to help you find and help the victims of Britain’s most notorious and silent crimes

By James Blake, CEO of Online Them

Phones, along with iPads, laptops and smart boards, are a crucial element of classroom teaching. Tablets are a frequent sight in 70% of UK classrooms. The technology is an unavoidable asset to their learning and it’s naive to suggest that ending cyberbullying is simply a case of restricting the use of the phones, or blocking websites while at school.

Cyber bullies are silently muscling into that learning, inhabiting student’s coat pockets, interrupting their homework and keeping them up well into the middle of the night, disrupting their schooling routine. As many as 55% of children in the UK are suffering, but all’s not lost. New technology, such as consent based monitoring tool the Online Them is helping parents stay one step ahead of the bullies without invading their child’s privacy, and the CPS are lobbying to prosecute trolls and bullies attacking victims using fake profiles. We’re getting there, slowly. 

For school children, their digital foes appear across many platforms, from gaming to social networks. Usually it’s someone they know, classmates that seamlessly morph from normal disgruntled teens, to angry taunting voices online, who penetrate their world via instant messenger, video streaming and social page invasions. 

Teachers are addressing the digital attitudes of their students, actively highlighting the differences between trolling and simple disagreements, intervening to point out harassment and underline unacceptable behaviour

Teachers are addressing the digital attitudes of their students, actively highlighting the differences between trolling and simple disagreements, intervening to point out harassment and underline unacceptable behaviour. After all, emotional intelligence is everything you need to get ahead in life  beyond year 11, and the very place you learn to handle people you can’t stand (but have to get along with), is inside the school boundaries. It’s cowardly, but acting on these jealousies and dislikes under the radar on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is temptingly simple and until now, consequence free.

But we get that it’s tough. With the workload, challenging children, internal politics, Ofsted inspections and constant government medalling, when do you have time detect silent digital unrest in the classroom, let alone sort it out? 

Working with charities and psychotherapists, we’ve forged 10 behavioural warning signs revealing the behaviours of a child who could be suffering from cruelty online. Teachers have the rare opportunity to take kids to task about appropriate behavior online and to care about one another online, as they would in the real world. 

With Stop Cyberbullying Day (17th June) just around the corner, please take these tell-tale signs and recruit your class as digital citizens fighting cyberbullying together. Education is the mightiest weapon we have. 

1. Reluctant or confused behaviour
Is your student reluctant to get their phone out, login to a tablet or use technology within school hours? After using the phone or computer does your student become annoyed, seem stressed, or look flustered and confused?

2. Curiosity
Your student may ask you about closing down social networking site accounts, or about security features like blocking other account holders or phone numbers. 

3. Drop out
Your student may refrain from group activities, sports, clubs and school trips unexpectedly.

4. Illness
The student may experience headaches, stomach upsets or other ailments more frequently. 

5. Attendance and quality of work
It’s likely this is the first time you’ll notice unusual behaviour. Your student may become increasingly late for school or be off “sick” more frequently. You may also notice a decline in the quality of school work.

6. Secrecy
This is a difficult one for teachers, for obvious reasons. Your student may act secretively when using the internet or phone. For example, they might close down the computer or change browser windows when you walk past their workspace. 

7. Self-esteem
Your student may start to put themselves down verbally or display other signs of low self-esteem, such as self-harm.

8. Tiredness or weight loss
If suffering from cyberbullying, the student could be up all night dealing with trolls or anxiety. They will arrive at school too tired to function, wielding mood swings and lose their appetite.

9. Attitude problem
If the student has recently become detached or disengaged, defensive or aggressive, or anxious and avoidant there could be more going on than simple teen tantrums. 

10. Reliance on routine
If you plan a lesson that goes beyond your usual timetable (either a change in location or time) and a student struggles to adjust or lashes out, you could be dealing with anxiety over routine change, loss of safety and boundaries. 

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