Report to recommend criminal offence for cyberbullying
Government document proposes schools should be compelled to have strong disciplinary codes
The report from the Government’s special rapporteur on child protection, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, says there are few criminal prosecutions of reported harassment involving social networking, email or text messages.
A Government report is to recommend that cyberbullying be made a criminal offence following a number of teenage suicides apparently linked to the problem.
It will also propose new laws to compel all schools to introduce disciplinary codes to tackle the misuse of social media.
The proposals are in the annual report of the Government’s special rapporteur on child protection, Dr Geoffrey Shannon. It is expected to be published this week.
It states that there are few criminal prosecutions of reported harassment involving social networking, email or text messages. “When cyberbullying is being described as an epidemic, we need to examine why this is the case,” the report says. “Specifically, is there reticence to investigate complaints of cyberbullying?”
It recommends amending existing laws used to combat reassessment – the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act – to provide for a specific offences of cyberbullying. The report also states that homophobic bullying in schools should be classified as a child protection issue. This would require schools to address these issues and report them to social services, if necessary. It says there is scope for uniform disciplinary measures across schools to tackle the problem, as “schools have too much latitude to determine how to discipline students engaged in bullying”.
Social media companies such as Facebook should also be encouraged to share the details of anyone engaged in anonymous cyberbullying.