Warning on primary level cyberbullying as school starts
Anti-bullying expert says children as young as six are being taunted on Facebook
Primary school children are being bullied regularly via text, and on Facebook and Moshi Monsters, according to an anti-bullying expert. Photograph: Getty Images
Often those meting out such abuse don’t realise the impact it is having, or the fact that they are leaving a fully traceable “digital fingerprint” that will remain with them for the rest of their lives, says anti-bullying tutor Marion Flanagan.
With the academic year about to restart this week, she says primary schools need to take a more active role in combating cyberbullying “It’s not good enough anymore to say cyberbullying doesn’t happen in primary school and, therefore, schools don’t have a responsibility to tackle it.
“Cyberbullying is just an extension of what can happen in the classroom or in the playground. It’s often a lot more vicious as it’s easier for someone to say something hurtful sitting in front of a computer screen or with a smartphone in their hands than it is looking someone in the eye.
“The impact is also potentially a lot more harmful as it can be read over and over again by the victim. What might start out as a throw-away comment can all too soon become something that the target really takes to heart and gets them down.”
Tackling the problem requires action by parents, schools and children themselves. “It’s time for us to act collectively before the tragedies which have struck several second-level schools are seen at primary level,” she says.
Her cyber-safety checklist for pupils includes the advice to create clever computer passwords and keep them private and to always log out of shared computers. Students are advised never to give out their full name, address, phone number, birthday or school name, to communicate respectfully with others and never to arrange a face-to-face meeting with a stranger.
Parents are advised to educate themselves about the dangers their children could encounter, including online predators and cyberbullying. They should talk to their children about things on the web that make them feel uncomfortable, as well as monitor their internet use.
Further information is available in a resource set, Bullying in a Cyber World, published by Prim-Ed Publishing.