Schools asked to be more proactive against cyber bullying

Primary schools in Tipperary and around the country need to take a far more proactive role in combating cyber bullying and it’s not enough to say it doesn’t happen on school property, an expert has urged.

Primary schools in Tipperary and around the country need to take a far more proactive role in combating cyber bullying and it’s not enough to say it doesn’t happen on school property, an expert has urged.

Children as young as first class are regularly bullied and taunted via text, on Facebook and Moshi Monsters and the pupils meting out such abuse online often don’t realise the impact they are having or that all of their online activity leaves a fully traceable, digital fingerprint which is with them for the rest of their lives, according to bullying expert, Marion Flanagan, M.Ed. aggression studies, TCD and anti-bullying tutor.

“It’s not good enough anymore to say cyber bullying doesn’t happen in primary school and, therefore, schools don’t have a responsibility to tackle it. Cyber bullying 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 best way to tackle this scourge is via the three pronged approach – involving parents, schools and children themselves. Some schools are terrific and proactive and astounded by what is uncovered when I go in and children hand back their questionnaires. But others simply stick their heads in the sand. It’s time for us to act collectively before the tragedies which have struck several second level schools are seen at primary level,” the full-time teacher urged.

She made her comments as the start of a new school year beckons and she recommended that every primary school in the country invests in the tailored resource, ‘Bullying in a Cyber World’, a new Prim-Ed Publishing publication for Irish primary schools. As part of the initiative, pupils are urged to sign an anti-bullying pledge and learn how to cope with and report such unacceptable behaviour at school, online and in the wider community.

The resource also includes a sample bullying report for teachers and a separate child form, so they can accurately record the complaint, who was involved, who the target and perpetrator were and who might have witnessed the incident.

The ground-breaking series of books and posters, produced exclusively by Prim-Ed Publishing in Wexford, targets children as young as four years of age and shows them, in child-focused and age-appropriate words, pictures and passages of text, and with questions and helpful exercises, how to deal with and prevent bullying.

‘Bullying in a Cyber World’ advises children what to say to bullies and helps them identify peers and adults in whom they can confide. The handy resource also includes an easy-to-follow, internet safety checklist for children and a cyber safety checklist for parents and guardians.

For more on Bullying in a Cyber World, check out www.prim-ed.com