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It has been
suggested that restriction of children’s time on the internet by parents and a
good parent-child relationship will to reduce the risk of cyber-bullying (Wang et al., 2009; Livingstone et al., 2011; Perren et al., 2012). Schools could offer
parents information on blocking software and creating rules in the home around
technology (Cassidy et al., 2013). Research
has found that 90% of young people do not tell their parents when they are
cyber-bullied (Juvonen & Gross, 2008; Mark & Ratliffe, 2011). It is
often the case that they are more concerned about their phone or internet
access being taken away from them than the impact of cyber-bullying on them
(Strom & Strom, 2005). Parents should be cognisant of this when talking to
their children about cyber-bullying and using the internet.

A huge
responsibility lies with parents for preventing cyber-bullying and their
involvement is widely recommended (Hinduja & Patchin, 2012; Purdgy &
McGuckin, 2015). Parents play a part in cyber-bullying occurring by allowing
their children to have technology without educating them about cyber-bullying
and without knowing themselves how to use the technology. Purdgy & McGuckin
(2015) found that Irish parents can have very different standards in relation
to allowing their children access to the internet. Young (2017) report that
school administrators feel parents can be a barrier to preventing
cyber-bullying through allowing students unrestricted internet and technology
access and conceding responsibility to schools. Offering trainings for parents on
how their children use devices and the internet and how to talk to their
children about cyber-bullying has been a suggested measure (Kowalski et al., 2008). Whilst this joint approach
to preventing cyber-bullying with the school and home working together has been
promoted, currently there is a lack of a mutual understanding and support with
parents often feeling that it is the responsibility of the school, and not
them, to address it (Purdgy & McGuckin, 2015).

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The rate at
which the internet, technology and how students interact with it change is a
major challenge for school authorities in preventing cyber-bullying (Ofcom 2014;
Purdgy & McGuckin, 2015). Teachers must be trained regularly on the devices
students use and the ways in which they communicate with each other. This will
allow teachers to be able to speak to students about how they use the internet
and to understand if any issues arise. Teachers should also be versed in skills
in being able to pick up warning signs of cyber-bullies and victims (Cassidy et al., 2013). There are a number of initiatives
in Ireland which attempt to do this training, such as the PDST Technology in
Education course and seminars held by Zeeko, which must be used by schools and
teachers.

Training in
Technology for Teachers

An
unwillingness of students to report cyber-bullying to teachers or school
authorities has been reported by a number of researchers (DiBasilio, 2008; Li,
2006). One reason for this is that students feel the teachers or school won’t do
anything about it (Li, 2010). Li (2006) found that only 6% of students who were
cyber-bullied reported it to teachers and that students were five times more
likely to tell a friend than a teacher. This raises concerns about the
environment schools are creating and the trust that exists between students and
teachers. Students may also feel that teachers don’t understand technology so
there is no point in reporting cyber-bullying which would suggest that training
for teachers could be a key part of prevention (Mark & Ratliffe, 2011; O’Moore
& Minton, 2009), as outlined in the next section.

Creating a
positive school environment has also been suggested as a way to prevent cyber-bullying
from occurring. Hinduja & Patchin (2012) recommend a number of measures
including getting to know students so that they don’t feel anonymous, promoting
student involvement in decision-making, setting limits and encouraging
reporting. Cassidy et al. (2013)
highlight that the school environment must feel safe in order for students to
feel that they can report incidents of cyber-bullying.

School
Environment

Peer
education appears to be an important measure which schools could use in
prevention. DiBasilio (2008) found that peer interventions which helped to
create awareness and develop leadership skills were successful in decreasing
cyber-bullying. Interventions which get students involved in doing something
about cyber-bullying, and not just learning about it, are most successful also
(Stacey, 2009).

Researchers
have emphasised how the curriculum should not just teach about cyber-bullying
explicitly but also should empower students to be digitally literate, and skilful
in critical thinking, problem-solving, ‘netiquette’, e-safety, protecting
themselves and their privacy (Agatston et
al., 2012; Cassidy et al., 2013;
Collier, 2012). Students should not only be educated about the potential
personal consequences of their actions but also the legal ramifications
(Cassidy et al., 2013). The results
of the recent Zeeko study (UCD, 2018) regarding the amount of teenagers who
have sexted and met strangers, amongst other things, are concerning especially
in light of studies, such as Yilmaz (2011) which reveal that many young people
do not know how be safe online. Yilmaz (2011) further found that only 15.4% of
students they studied learned online safety skills in school. Teaching values
and empathy to students could also be vital as it seems that students today are
often apathetic and lacking in emotional intelligence in a world of being
hidden behind screens (Mason, 2008).

Arguably the
most important measure in preventing cyber-bullying which can be taken by
schools, as suggested by many authors, is raising awareness and educating students
(Agatston et al., 2012; Cassidy et al., 2013; Perren et al., 2012; Wright et al., 2009). Explicit teaching of
cyber-bullying through the curriculum has been suggested by both students and
parents (Cassidy et al., 2011; 2012).
It has been recommended that lessons are created jointly by teachers and
psychologists (Cassidy et al., 2013).

Education
for Students

Section 2: What can schools do to prevent cyber-bullying?

In terms of
policy, there are no specific cyber-bullying policies for schools but
guidelines over the years have included mentions of cyber-bullying, or
behaviours which could be categorised under it. The most recent and relevant
policy, the Department of Education (DES)’s ‘the Action Plan on Bullying’ (DES,
2013a) contains explicit mention of cyber-bullying, outlining what it means and
some measures which should be taken. The most recent anti-bullying guidelines for
schools (DES, 2013b) require schools to record and report on cases of bullying
at least once a term to the Board of Management, and confirm that the incidents
have been addressed according to department and school policy. Within this
context, and the fact that 20% of Irish post-primary students currently are
experiencing cyber-bullying (UCD, 2018), schools cannot ignore incidents of
cyber-bullying, even if they have not taken place on school grounds.

Cyber-bullying
creates blurred lines of responsibility as to who is responsible for addressing
it.  Schools in Ireland vary in their
approach to dealing with cyber-bullying. Some schools take a strong stance on
refusing to take responsibility for dealing with cyber-bullying cases which
start outside of school (Purdgy & McGuckin, 2015). However it is often
difficult to disentangle cyber-bullying from face-to-face bullying as a student
may be, and is often, a victim of both (Livingstone et al., 2011; O’Moore, 2009; Šev?íková et al., 2012). Bullying could start in school face-to-face and then
continue online or vice versa (Li, 2010). It has been argued that schools have
a duty to act and also the right to punish students for incidents which happen
outside of school if the behaviour impacts negatively on students’ safety and
education (Corcoran et al., 2012; Kift
et al., 2010; Wingate et al., 2013).

Section 1: The role of the school

This essay
will look at the role schools play in addressing cyber-bullying within the
policy context, and the measures which a school might be able to take in
preventing and dealing with cyber-bullying. It will conclude by reflecting on
to what extent a school can really make a difference in cyber-bullying.

Whilst
interventions and methods of dealing with traditional forms of bullying are well-documented
(Farrington & Ttofi, 2009), proven ways of tackling cyber-bullying are not
as well advanced. The constantly changing ways in which young people connect on
the internet including new apps, features and platforms, presents new and
difficult challenges for dealing with cyber-bullying (Purdgy & McGuckin,
2015). The nature of technology today; the fact that young people are connected
24/7, day and night, and the difficulties in avoiding social interactions
(Belsey, 2006), make cyber-bullying such a challenge. Unlike traditional
bullying types, this form of bullying can occur all the time, can be to a very
large audience and can be anonymous (Dooley et
al., 2009). Whilst in the past bullying occurred primarily in school and
victims could usually get away from it after school, it is almost impossible to
get away from cyber-bullying. This lack of containment within school makes it
very difficult for school authorities to prevent and deal with cyber-bullying.

The Changing
Face of Technology and Cyber-bullying

Whilst the
positive impacts of increased technology have been well documented, including
access to information, social interaction, and new skills (Costabile &
Spears, 2012), there are increasing concerns around the negative impacts of
this connectivity, including cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying has been defined by
Smith et al. (2006) as an
‘aggressive, intentional act carried out by a group or individual, using
electronic forms of contact, repeatedly over time against a victim who cannot
easily defend him- or herself’. However there is no clear agreed upon
definition as the technological world progresses at such a rapid pace it is
difficult to define what is or is not cyber-bullying. Particularly there are
debates around whether one-off posts count as cyber-bullying or must it be a
repeated offence (Sevcikova, 2012).

Today
technology is central to children’s lives (Livingstone et al., 2011; Subrahmanyam & Šmahel 2011). Young people are
constantly connected to their friends, peers and people around the world. They
are bombarded with information and are expected to be reachable by internet at
all times. In Ireland internet usage and access is prolific amongst children. A
recent study by Zeeko reports that more than 90% of Irish post-primary school
students own a smartphone and use it all the time (UCD, 2018).

Introduction

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