Bejoy Pal, the National Schools and College Pastors Coordinator for the Ascension Trust. shares his thoughts on national anti-bullying week and what responsibility schools have to play.
Throughout history we’ve constantly been asked to take a stand.
Stand up for justice
Stand up to racism
And in the summer was the launch of the new campaign #Standuptobullying
The rise and development of modern technology, social media and social networking has revolutionised how we communicate with each other. Within moments we can connect with friends and family who are on the other side of the world.
I often see posts by teachers on Facebook asking people to 'like' and comment on posts to raise awareness and show their students the potential reach and power that social media has.
But if Spiderman has taught us nothing else than the great adage ‘With great power comes great responsibility’. And this is where the problem lies. The abuse of this power and abuse of technology has given rise to cyberbullying.
In 2010, 16% of children reported being bullied face to face, 8% on the internet and 5% via mobile phone. By 2013, this ratio had reversed; making cyberbullying (12%) more common than face-to-face bullying (9%) with most cyberbullying occurs on social network sites (SNSs)
But what is cyberbullying?
Childnet International defines it as a form of bullying that takes place using any form of electronic communication to harass, torment, intimidate or embarrass. This can have a significant impact on young people’s mental health and wellbeing, often leaving them feeling isolated and lonely.
One of the biggest concerns is that cyberbullying can take place 24/7 and can go viral very quickly. There is no off switch for the internet. What is scary is how it reaches into our homes, which in turn can develop into a fear of not being able to escape and not feeling safe.
We are constantly asking our young people to confront bullies face to face, to be strong and courageous, and take a stand against them. But how do we ‘Take a Stand’ for something that occurs behind a computer screen or on our mobile technology?
How do we make the internet safe?
How do we stop more people becoming victims of cyberbullying?
Patrick Regan OBE, who is an experienced youth worker and set up the organisation XLP, has said ‘Hope is the refusal to accept a situation as it is’
I refuse to believe that the internet is evil. I refuse to accept that we can’t put an end to cyberbullying. Social media is a tool to aid the art of communication. Technology is designed to enhance our development in society; not to destroy and humiliate us.
Cyberbullying is preventable and we can stop it clogging up our news feeds. November 14-18 2016 is Anti-Bullying week in the UK and the ABA (anti-bullying alliance) have launched the theme ‘Power for Good’ and here are just a few ideas for our young people on how they can help prevent cyberbullying.
Check your privacy settings
Sites such as Facebook, gives you control on who can see what you post. Change your settings to private, so that only people you trust can see what you post.
Don’t keep chats a secret
You should always keep a record of chats you have over the internet and never agree to keep them secret. If someone insists that you shouldn’t tell anyone about your conversations then this is often a danger sign.
Don’t ever be afraid to report anything that causes you harm
There is always help available. Online abuse isn't secret even if the people posting this abuse do so using a false name, they can still be traced because the firm which hosts the website will keep logs which detail where uploads have been made from. You and your parents can't access this information but the police can. So report any activity targeted at yourself that is directly harassing you or someone you care about.
You are not alone
Bullying UK has a fantastic page highlighting how to stay safe on the various social networking services available
Also check out internet matters which is full of amazing videos and stories and advice about how to stay safe on the internet and ways to make sure the internet is a safe place to visit: https://www.internetmatters.org/issues/cyberbullying/learn-about-it/
Finally don’t forget to use the #standuptobullying #powerforgood & #antibullyingweek to really raise the awareness of cyberbullying and support in finding ways to put an end to it.
Stand up to cyberbullying and let’s put an end to it
Ascension Trust is a Christian inter-denominational organisation with a passion to mobilise the Church to make a positive contribution to society and to improve the quality of life of the disadvantaged and vulnerable.