Northern Ireland

Cyber bulling: Teachers 'in limbo' over how to respond

Girl at computer
Image caption Teachers said cyber bullying was a growing problem

Cyber bullying among children in Ireland is a growing problem and teachers are not sure how to deal with it, a survey has revealed,

Researchers from Stranmillis College, Belfast, and Trinity College, Dublin, took evidence from teachers and principals in 143 schools.

They found that a lot of cyber bullying on phones and social media took place outside school time.

However, parents often expect teachers to solve the problem.

The conference on teacher education, north and south, said that despite the obvious benefits of new technology, cyber bullying was a concern and, unlike face to face bullying, could take place at any time.

More than 50% of teachers said it was a growing problem. However, when it came to older children in post primary schools, 75% of teachers found it was a problem.

The report quotes the principal of a primary school in Northern Ireland as saying that the modern tablet technology had created a growing problem of cyber bullying.

Researchers found that 73% of teachers in Northern Ireland had received training in cyber safety as compared to 39% in the Republic of Ireland.

'Cloud of uncertainty'

Schools in Northern Ireland were also more likely to have a designated member of staff to deal with the issue.

Almost half of the schools surveyed had offered training to parents. But teachers said parents did not fully understand the dangers of buying their children phones and tablets with internet access.

Some of the teachers said parents did not help because they got involved in on-line discussions, "throwing in their tuppence worth".

One secondary school teacher in Northern Ireland accused parents of an "abdication of responsibility" by expecting schools to deal with cyber bullying incidents.

A number of schools said senior management often did not know how social media works and had been slow to respond until the principal was targeted.

Researchers said government should provide a legal and policy framework "to guide school leaders out of "the cloud of uncertainty" over cyber bullying.

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