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How to beat the cyberbullies

From happy-slapping to online stalking

Sally-Ann Griffiths, Securus Software's education and child protection advisor, observes: "Many teachers feel they're on the back foot as pupils are more tech-savvy than they are. But once cyberbullying is identified, the core skills teachers already possess are equally useful with on- and offline bullies."

There are plenty of resources to help teachers, parents and children understand the internet and cyberbullying. But a better solution is for children to be educated to know what’s right and wrong, Fuller says.

Social networking

It's a learning curve for everyone, and social-networking sites are attempting to improve awareness. According to a Bebo spokesperson, the site is ready to play its part to fight bullying. "Antisocial behaviour is an aspect of the society we live in," the spokesperson says.

"To help parents, teachers and young people navigate these issues online, we provide a series of safety educational materials. Internet users are not anonymous. Their activity creates a digital record of behaviour, which, should members breach our terms of service, can be used to assist investigations as required."

Bebo is involved in a number of related policy groups, including the Home Office Internet Taskforce; the Department for Children, Schools and Families, the Cyberbullying Task Force and Beatbullying.

Bebo's free educational resources are based on up-to-date guidance and developed in collaboration with the groups listed above. Dr. Rachel O'Connell, Bebo's chief safety officer, hopes the resources will help adults and teachers develop an understanding of social sites, so they can educate youngsters in how to use them safely and positively.

Facebook isn't involved with the DfES initiative, but the site has measures in place to prevent bullying. "When users register on our site, they agree to our terms of use, which state that they cannot intimidate or harass another," a spokesperson told us. "Facebook does not condone cyberbullying on the site and will disable accounts that are found to be intimidating others in any way."

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR PRIVACY IN FACEBOOK

The popular video-sharing website YouTube is no stranger to intimidating materials appearing online through its service, with 6,000 hours of additional content uploaded to the service every minute. In early November the company introduced a much-improved flagging system to help users police inappropriate content.

A representative says: "YouTube has clear policies that prohibit inappropriate content on the site. Our community understands the rules and polices the site for inappropriate material. When users feel content is inappropriate they can flag it and our staff then review it as quickly as possible to see if it violates our terms of use. If users break these rules we disable their accounts."

Flagged messages are sent to a 24-hour response team, which will check the complaint, vet the video and then take offending clips offline if necessary. In cases where YouTube's team does not withdraw a clip, teachers and parents can use the support forums to request its removal.

But with pupils still habitually making personal details available online, and with educators reporting that social-networking sites are still slow to deal with reported instances of inappropriate behaviour, the problem remains critical.

Next page: Technology - the solution as well as the problem?

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