Although adults may not worry as much about bullying as they do sexual predators, bullying remains a serious problem for kids. And as the Internet has enhanced our ability to communicate, it has also empowered bullies to be even more destructive than they might be otherwise. As more research shows that large numbers of teens cyberbully and are cyberbullied, governments are increasingly trying to protect children. The government has already responded to this threat in some states. Cyberbullying isn’t limited to the United States, though; according to statistics reported by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC),“[m]ore than a third of [British] 12 to 15-year-olds have faced some kind of cyberbullying.” In response, the British government has issued new guidance to schools to help curb cyberbullying.
The British measures are interesting because of their seriousness. The measures urge “pupils’ mobile phones to be classed as potentially offensive weapons and for them to be banned during school sessions.” Teachers are also being trained to confiscate phones of bullies, where they are not already banned. Additionally, according to the BBC article the measures acknowledge that cyberbullying “differs [from traditional bullying] in that it invades home and personal space and the perpetrator can use the cloak of anonymity.” Thus, teachers are being trained about “how to have offensive or malicious material removed from websites.” This move will help extend the school’s protection into the student’s home. The protection, however, is not only for students; as explained in the article: “Misuse of Internet sites can destroy teachers' confidence and professional reputation and provide yet another vehicle for false allegations against staff.”
I applaud the British educational system for taking cyberbullying so seriously. Additionally, their response confirms something this blog has noted before—cyberbullying affects adults as well as children. The measures, though, raise discomfort; school rules do not necessarily go through the same democratic process as other laws, and school officials are not law enforcement officers. Notwithstanding my strong desire to see bullying prevented, having schools applying rules off of their campuses makes me uncomfortable. I’d far prefer a more whole-community approach that involves parents and other community leaders along with awareness campaigns, such as those NCPC has run this year. However, as a person concerned about cyberbullying, I will be watching the results of the British initiatives closely—I may be an idealist, but I’m a pragmatic one.