NAPD calls for school-wide policies on cyberbullying and social network liaison officers

4 Mar 2013

The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), the professional body for second-level school leaders, is urging schools to implement policies on cyberbullying in order to educate children of the risks, and asking social networks to liaise with schools on cyberbullying complaints.

The NAPD’s call on social networks to join the fight against cyberbullying comes with the publication of research conducted by Amárach Research on behalf of the association.

A survey of 1,001 adults aged 15 and over found that 81pc say cyberbullying and traditional bullying have equally serious implications for a child’s mental health, with 12pc believing that cyberbullying is more serious.

“For educators, parents and children, the message is that bullying, whether conducted online or offline, can seriously damage children’s mental health and we must all work together to stamp it out,” said Clive Byrne, director of the NAPD.

Shared responsibility

Of the survey respondents, 66pc believed that parents should monitor their children’s internet use, while the same figure believe schools should supervise online activity in class. A further two-thirds believed schools should have guidelines on cyberbullying.

Guidelines have been issued on how to deal with cyberbullying as a principal, year head, guidance counsellor, victim and perpetrator and the NAPD encourages schools to introduce an educational module on internet usage for all students and to devise and implement a school-wide policy that monitors cyber risk and outlines the steps to tackle it.

Unfortunately, reporting cyberbullying to social networks hasn’t been easy. “Principals tell me that the social networks either do not respond or are slow to react to their requests to take down abusive posts about a student in their care,” said Byrne. “The social networks ought to have a dedicated liaison officer whose job it is to take calls from schools and parents and act promptly in deleting offensive posts.”

Schools are also urged to educate parents of the dangers of social networks and new technologies for children. In the survey, 49pc believed parents should curb children’s internet use and 68pc believe they should advise their kids on internet safety. However, 73pc said it was the school’s responsibility to warn children of the risks involved in being online, while 63pc believe smartphones and social networking should be banned in schools.

Confining the survey results to just those parents of children aged between 10 and 18 (a sample size of 293 respondents), 52pc check on their child’s internet activity at least once a week. Of these parents, 18pc believed their child had been cyberbullied while 12pc believed their child was cyberbullying others.

Cyberbullying image via Shutterstock

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.