I’ve been privileged to work with Childnet International leading on national cyberbullying guidance under two very different governments in the UK. The original guidance blazed a trail as the first government supported work of its kind produced anywhere in the world. Cyberbullying, Safe To Learn was released in 2007, and followed by Cyberbullying: Supporting School Staff in 2009 – the first national cyberbullying guidance for school employees.
Co-funded by the European Union’s Connecting Europe Facility and the UK’s Government Equalities Office the new guidance, Cyberbullying: Understand, Prevent, Respond builds on the success and lessons learnt of the original work, and responds to changes in online abuse and young peoples experience of mobile, internet and gaming technologies.
The guidance is also critically informed by those working in schools (145 schools and organisations supporting schools took part in the research and consultation) and by the voices of young people. Five groups of young people from secondary schools in London, Manchester, and from the First Out group for young people, Leicester Lesbian Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Centre gave us their time and opinions. We learnt some very important lessons, and these were included the guidance, including a section on What Young People Have Told Us (& if you work with or know any young people, you should read this.).
Several people have asked me recently about the difference between the new guidance, and the guidance produced in 2007. There are several, not least that the new guidance is considerably shorter.
A key change, and one I am very proud of, is that discrimination, hate speech and hate crimes are addressed from the outset. The guidance opens:
Cyberbullying, or online bullying, can be defined as the use of technologies by an individual or by a group of people to deliberately and repeatedly upset someone else.
Cyberbullying is often linked to discrimination, including on the basis of gender, race, faith, sexual orientation, gender identity or special educational needs and disabilities. For example, girls report experiencing a higher incidence of cyberbullying than boys, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are more likely to experience bullying, including cyberbullying.
The guidance is also clear in terms of the responsibility for education providers to ensure learning communities are places that welcome and support all children and young people:
Bullying may also be, or felt to be, supported institutionally and culturally. Young people may be bullying within environments where respect for others, and treating others well, is not seen as important – or where disrespect and poor treatment is tolerated or encouraged. Individuals who do not conform to social norms may face discrimination within intolerant communities.
The guidance can be downloaded from Childnet, along with a range of practical resources including lesson plans and short films.