In part one of our two-part cyberbullying series, we defined what cyberbullying and why we should be concerned about it. This week, we’ll highlight ways in which we can work together to prevent cyberbullying and protect those affected by it.
Clinical psychologist Catherine Radloff says: “South Africa does not currently have specific legislation dealing with cyberbullying, and victims have to rely on fragmented pieces of criminal and civil law. The Protection from Harassment Act may be useful in some cases, but it is a huge problem to apply this act to children who are not psychologically mature and who may, as a result, not fully understand the gravity of their actions. Legal procedures may also be time-consuming and costly and could cause additional trauma to the victims.”
What can be done?
“Cyberbullying should be handled at grass root level,” Radloff says, “Cybersafety and awareness about cyberbullying should form part of the school curriculum. The Department of Basic Education should ensure that schools have clear policies on how to deal with such incidents.”
Radloff also says that parents and teachers need to be educated about safety online; and that counselling services should be made available to victims: “South African schools are profoundly lacking when it comes to providing for the psychological needs of our students. This is something that needs to be urgently addressed at the highest level to ensure the psychological safety and security of our children.”
The role of the school
Cyberbullying is difficult for schools to police and manage, since much of it takes place off-campus and outside school hours. Government needs to intervene with specific guidelines about how schools may take action against cyberbullying instances.
However, schools can play an important role in working with parents and students to stop and remedy cyberbullying situations. Schools can:
- Educate children how to use technology correctly
- Educate students and parents about the laws surrounded cyberbullying
- Add a provision to the acceptable use policy that reserves the right to discipline the student for cyberbullying actions taken off-campus
- Keep an eye on and address students who seem emotionally withdrawn or unstable
- Provide counselling facilities both for the bullies and those who are bullied
Safer Internet Day
Taking place in February each year, Safer Internet Day (SID) promotes safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, especially among children and young people across the world.
Be sure to diarise Tuesday, 7 February 2017 for next year’s SID, with the theme ‘Be the change: Unite for a better internet’. Safer Schools will be driving a Safer Internet Day pledge campaign in the coming months… Watch this space!
Albeit a relatively new form of harassment, cyberbullying is here to stay. Schools, parents, and students need to take a proactive approach and be aware of the steps that can be taken to prevent and address it.