WebWise news report - cyberbullying
Research carried out by the University of Plymouth suggests that a third of teachers are victims of online bullying.
Bullying carried out over the internet - also known as 'cyberbullying' - can take many forms; from sending abusive or threatening emails to someone's inbox, to setting up online groups or blogs about individuals that people can join and comment on.
The study was based on an internet survey of over 300 teachers followed up by several in-depth interviews, and showed that 35% of teachers had experienced cyberbullying, 60% of whom were women. In over a quarter of cases the abuse was initiated by parents.
Many teachers would say that children sniggering in the classroom and spreading small untruths about them is all part and parcel of the profession, and few would be surprised to find that they were the subject of verbal discussions by students. But what can be seen as a relatively harmless part of classroom culture can take a more worrying form on the internet.
Many users of online groups, as well other anonymous posters, can leave people scared and worried about their personal safety. Few would have sleepless nights over a 12 year old gossiping with their friends, but when that 12 year old takes on a disguise on the internet – either pretending to be someone else or simply remaining 'anonymous' - it's natural to worry that they may not be 'just a kid' but someone else with a bigger grudge.
For some, the scale of abuse – and knowledge that it comes from people they regularly deal with – can be extremely detrimental to their health. One teacher in the study reported they suffered mental ill health and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said that it receives calls every week from teachers who believe they have been cyberbullied.
Ignoring abusive behaviour on the web is not always enough if people want to cultivate a culture of respect online.
A spokesperson for Facebook said that the social networking site has "worked hard to develop reporting mechanisms that enable people to report offensive content they are concerned about."
The UK Safer Internet Centre has set up the Professionals Online Safety Helpline to offer support to professionals who work with children and young people to tackle issues of e-safety.
For more on cyber bullying read the WebWise guide
Hajar is a regular contributor to the WebWise blog and has also made award-winning programmes for BBC Radio. In her spare time she loves reading, writing and singing.