Bid to tackle problem of cyber bullying

A NEW multi-pronged bid to tackle cyber bullying is being adopted by county chiefs as the popularity of internet sites like Facebook continues to grow, it emerged today.

A NEW multi-pronged bid to tackle cyber bullying is being adopted by county chiefs as the popularity of internet sites like Facebook continues to grow, it emerged today.

Bosses at Suffolk County Council say bullying is no longer a matter for the playground with children now becoming the victim of vicious online slurs and abuse.

This can include malicious rumours being spread on internet sites such as Facebook or MySpace or text messages being sent direct to the victim's phone.

Schools across the county are now adopting a common approach towards the issue as well as more traditional types of bullying.

This includes:

Peer mentoring schemes

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Discussing issues around bullying in personal development lessons

Schools approaching social networking sites and asking for offensive material to be removed

Cliff James, head of safeguarding children at the council, said cyber bullying was a relatively new phenomenon and one schools are determined to tackle.

Social networking sites have tens of millions of members with a large proportion of users being of school age.

Because of the way the sites work, derogatory comments and potentially embarrassing photographs can quickly be distributed to a large number of people.

“With the increasing use of home computers and mobile phones, bullying that may well have been contained within the school playground or at a bus stop is moving into the cyber world,” Mr James said.

“As people start using new technology some of the adverse impacts in society start manifesting themselves in that way.

“A child or young person can become someone who is talked about in this environment.

“Once someone starts using technology for this kind of thing they can get a message out to a wider number of people than previously was the case.”

Have you been the victim of cyber-bullying? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail

SCHOOLS in Suffolk are tackling cyber bullying using a range of methods to ensure children are not made to suffer in silence.

Peer mentoring schemes are in place whereby children can approach fellow students who have been trained to deal with the situation, give advice, and encourage them to speak to a teacher.

Issues around bullying are also discussed in personal health and social education classes - the aim being to inform children of the effects of bullying.

Schools can also get in touch with internet sites to get material, either written or photographs, taken down although it can prove difficult to remove every trace of abuse once it has been posted online.

Cliff James, the county council's head of safeguarding children, said the new online bullying trend can have more far-reaching consequences than stereotypical school playground fare.

“A victim of cyber bullying suddenly becomes the victim of a huge number of people,” he said.

“Particularly for young people that may well be the victim of this, it causes them a lot of pain and upset and can affect their wellbeing.

“It is something we need to support them with and manage and deal with if it arises.

“It's about proactively talking about it - setting up systems and support arrangements where it has happened so young people don't suffer in silence.”

Case study:

EWAN is 14 and is a high school pupil.

He enjoys school and is confident about his studies.

He has a mobile phone and other members of his class have his mobile number. He has a computer at home in his bedroom which he uses on a regular basis for homework , playing games and uses chat rooms and a social network site which has information about him which he has provided.

The initial concern arises while he is at school one day and one member of his class takes exception to a personal comment he makes about them. On his way home he gets a text message to say that he is a loser.

The next thing he notices is that negative comments are made about him via the chat room which have been exaggerated are then shared with a significant number of others in the school.

On the school bus the next day he notices that others are talking about him and when he challenges this he is met with further negative comments which make him feel even more upset.

During the rest of the day he suffers further comments and is not clear how to deal with them or where to seek help. He is not certain about speaking to his teachers as he is frightened this may make matters worse for him he also does not initially want to speak to his parents as he does not want to worry them.

He eventually speaks to a friend who approaches a teacher who then meets with the group involved and addresses the issue with them to stop the negative comments and avoid the matter escalating further.