Playground taunts, physical violence and name-calling have, unfortunately, long been present in the school environment. In recent years, the prevalence of digital dangers, including online bullying, has seen a dramatic increase, fuelling school inspection bodies, such as Ofsted and ISI, to place a greater focus on how schools tackle online bullying.
Reports of traditional bullying, including physical violence and threats of physical violence, dropped significantly between 2005 and 2014. This is according to a research report released by the Department for Education in July 2016, which suggests that a rise in online bullying is potentially responsible for a decrease in traditional forms of bullying. Are societal changes, such as social media and mobile devices, influencing the way young people bully others?
Digital trends and the ubiquitous nature of technology are inevitably impacting the lives of young people. While the online world offers endless opportunities for learning, socialising and connecting with peers, it can also be exploited for malicious intent. Physical bullying may have seen a drop in recent years, as outlined in the report, but online bullying has become a growing concern for students, parents and education professionals alike. A similar research brief published by the Department for Education in November 2015 revealed that one in 10 young people had experienced online bullying, or ‘cyberbullying’, in the past year.
It’s also alarming to discover the most targeted groups of young people; students with an illness, disability or special educational needs (SEN) were more likely to have experienced bullying – and more frequently. A worrying 49% of young people with ‘a long-standing illness or disability that affects their schooling’ had experienced bullying within the last year, compared to 36% of those with no illness or disability. Girls were also 9% more likely to have experienced ‘any kind of bullying’ than boys and were more prone to online bullying victimisation.
Whether traditional or online, schools have a legal duty to ensure the safety of their students and prevent all forms of bullying. This means having the right tools in place (such as a monitoring system) to proactively identify and respond to online bullying, so schools can address inappropriate behaviour and educate students on safe, responsible digital citizenship.