All bullying is cruel and unacceptable. No one deserves to spend their childhood being tormented or harassed, whether physically or mentally, in the playground or at home on their laptop.
On ‘Stand Up to Bullying Day’, I welcome new research that shows schools are starting to see important progress with stamping out violent and physical bullying. Between 2006 and 2015, the proportion of teenagers reporting threats of violence at school - or actual violence – fell. This is due to schools introducing effective anti-bullying policies that protect their pupils, and putting teachers back in charge of their classrooms by combatting disruption and poor behaviour.
But alongside these positives, today’s research also highlights the threat of a relatively recent phenomenon: cyber bullying. Teenagers are now increasingly reporting being abused, threatened and excluded online.
For the first time, cyberbullying is reported as a specific concern for 10% of those interviewed.
The internet has opened up a world of opportunities for children growing up today. It is a network for friends to connect with each other, a learning resource to help with their studies, a stage to showcase their talents and a lens to explore the world.
But for parents, most of whom did not grow up with smartphones or social media, there exists a clear and understandable worry that the internet has brought new dangers in to our children’s lives which are often hidden from us. They may be unaware of the websites their children can access without permission, or the addictive and violent video games they can download for free despite being underage. Monitoring what children are accessing online can seem like an impossible and never-ending task.
What might seem like harmless teasing to outsiders can follow a child home, building up to the point that it becomes intolerable. A comment made on a group chat online, or an image posted on a social media site, can make it all over school by the following day – the old adage that ‘news travels fast’ is especially true in today’s connected world. The opportunity for people to participate in bullying indirectly by joining in with a joke online is greater.
In response, schools are adopting innovative approaches. Instead of trying to stop children from using the internet, staff at Waterloo Primary School in Merseyside focus instead on developing their ‘social conscience’ - teaching them how to behave online and discussing how online statements might make others feel, especially when seen by a large audience. The school also works closely with parents to reinforce the positive work done at school, including through an app to their phones that signpost helpful resources on their website.
The Telegraph’s ‘Duty of Care’ campaign, launched this week, is a welcome addition to the many voices helping to shine a light on the issue of protecting children online
Schools Minister Nick Gibb
The government will soon be including internet safety as part of compulsory relationships and sex education classes and we will be talking to young people, parents and teachers about the best way to do this. We will look at which schools are taking a successful approach already and share best practice.
We are working hard to give both schools and parents the support they need to for helping children cope with the challenges of the modern world. We are providing guidance to schools about the serious issue of cyberbullying and advice on tackling online harassment. Our ‘Educate Against Hate’ website provides resources that help schools and parents protect children from the risks of online extremism and radicalisation.
The Telegraph’s ‘Duty of Care’ campaign, launched this week, is a welcome addition to the many voices helping to shine a light on the issue of protecting children online. Ultimately, it’s a job in which we all share responsibility – parents, teachers, businesses and government. That’s why today we will take a collective stand against bullying by supporting ‘Stand Up to Bullying’ day and helping to shape the kind of society we want for our future generations.
Nick Gibb is the Minister for School Standards
Protect yourself and your family. Find out more about our Duty of Care campaign to regulate social media