The following is meant to be a guideline for developing a Cyberbullying policy for your school or organization. It covers the basics of a generic Cyberbullying policy and is meant to be adapted for your particular situation. A cyberbullying policy is often used in conjunction with an overarching anti-bullying policy.
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A Cyberbully is someone who uses a computer system repeatedly or continuously to convey information which causes fear, intimidation, distress or other harm to another person; or detriment to another person’s health, emotional well-being, self-esteem or reputation and in extreme cases leading to self-harm and suicide.
Cyberbullying is often linked to discrimination, often on on the basis of gender, race, religion, socio-economic background, cultural traits, sexual orientation, gender identity and disabilities. Girls for example, report a higher incidence of cyberbullying than boys.
Cyberbullying is often regarded as more serious than traditional bullying. It differs significantly from traditional forms of bullying in the following ways:
- by facilitating a far more extreme invasion of personal space. Cyberbullying can take place at any time and intrude into spaces that have previously been regarded as safe and personal.
- the potential for anonymity on the part of the bully. This can be extremely distressing for the victim
- the potential for the act to be exposed to an exponentially larger audience through sharing and ‘becoming viral’
- through the knowledge that the act is recorded on the internet, and for the public at large therefore, amplifying the negative effect on the victim
- age and size of both parties are irrelevant in cyberbullying cases
Forms of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying takes different forms:
A common form of impersonation involves fake accounts or profiles designed to impersonate the victim. One form of impersonation using the Facebook platform, known as ‘fraping,’ involves someone gaining unauthorized access to the victim’s social media account, impersonating them and posting inappropriate content as the victim.
Cyberstalking is when someone uses technology to repeatedly harass, intimidate and threaten someone. Cyberstalkers may keep tabs on their victims and make attempts to meet them in person. Extreme cases of cyberstalking can also involve adults grooming teenagers to have sexual relationships with them or in some cases for the purpose of human trafficking.
Flaming is when people post derogatory comments on someone’s web or social media page or via instant messaging such as WhatsApp, emails or chat rooms. This generally occurs during an online argument, and the communication is usually filled with angry and foul language.
This type of cyberbullying involves sharing someone’s private information in order to publicly humiliate him or her. Outing can include posting photos, emails, text messages or videos online or forwarding them to other people via instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp.
Like outing, trickery involves revealing private information about another person. When someone engages in this type of cyberbullying, the person befriends someone and gains his or her trust with the specific intention of sharing that person’s private information online.
Harassment involves the constant sending of malicious, abusive or threatening messages to an individual or group online. This can be done to the victims publicly on their social media feed or via private / direct messaging.
Trolling is the most common of cyberbullying techniques. It is the deliberate act of provoking a response through the use of some type of inflammatory statements — such as using insults or inappropriate language or images online. The goal of a troll is generally to incite someone to anger hoping that the person reacts in an equally inappropriate or embarrassing way.
Catfishing is when someone pretends to be someone they are not and sometimes assumes another person’s identity online, sometimes including the identity of the victim. This is often done to post inappropriate content or manipulate and hurt other relationships the victim has online. A catfish uses fake photos, and sometimes a false persona, to find friends or romantic partners on the internet. This can also lead to wanting to meet face-to-face often associated with unwanted outcomes.
This occurs when someone posts rumors and gossip about someone online. Cyberbullies use denigration in order to ruin the victim’s relationships and reputation.
Exclusion is creating groups or events and intentionally excluding someone. This can also happen by not tagging someone in a photo or inviting them to a chat group or blocking them from private social media accounts. Exclusion is often carried out in similar fashion, simultaneously, in the real world.
The best way to deal with cyberbullying is to prevent it happening in the first place. There is no single solution to the problem of cyberbullying but [YOUR ORGANIZATION NAME HERE] will do the following as a minimum to impose a comprehensive and effective prevention strategy:
Roles & Responsibilities
The Principal or Vice-Principal will take overall responsibility for the dissemination and implementation of the following response strategies:
- ensure that all incidents of cyberbullying both internal and external to the school are dealt with immediately and will be managed and/or escalated in line with the procedures set out in the National Schools Code of Conduct.
- ensure that all policies relating to cyberbullying are reviewed and updated regularly
- ensure that all staff know that they need to report any issues concerning cyberbullying
- provide training so that staff feel confident to identify students who might be a victim of cyberbullying
- ensure that parents are informed and attention is drawn frequently to the cyberbullying policy
- ensure the Cyberbullying Policy is available at all times on the school website
- ensure that at the beginning of each term, cyberbullying is addressed to the school population
- ensure that all staff are aware of their responsibilities by providing clear guidance for staff on the use of technology within school and beyond.
- All staff should be aware of and acknowledge that they have read and understood the National Schools Code of Conduct.
The Dean of Discipline and a selected member of staff (Head of IT Department or Information Technology teacher) should:
- ensure that all students are given clear guidance on the use of technology safely and positively both in school and beyond including how to manage their personal data and how to report abuse and bullying online.
- provide annual training for parents on online safety and the positive use of technology
- ensure the school’s Acceptable Use Policy is reviewed annually
- provide annual training for staff on the above policies and procedures
- implement and notify staff of the Cyberbullying Disciplinary Matrix
- provide annual training for staff on online safety
The IT Administrator will:
- ensure adequate safeguards are in place to filter and monitor inappropriate content.
- ensure that the school uses solutions to filter internet access. The internet filter records access to prohibited sites should be easily attainable by the Dean(s) of Discipline or Head(s) of Administration.
- ensure that visitors to the school are given clear guidance on the use of technology in school.
- ensure visitors are only allowed a highly restricted guest accounts which will not allow any access to school data
The Secretariat under the guidance of the Principal or Vice-Principal will
- ensure the school manages personal data in line with statutory requirements. The school is aware of its duties under the Data Protection Act (2011). Careful consideration will be given when processing personal information so that the individual’s privacy is respected where it needs protection. Access to the personal information will only be given to those who need it. The principles of the Data Protection Act will be applied when processing, collecting, disclosing, retaining or disposing of information relating to a student or member of staff.
The Ministry of Education will
- appoint a school social welfare officer to ensure the policies and practices relating to safeguarding including the prevention of cyberbullying are being implemented effectively.
Use of Technology in School
All members of the school community are expected to take responsibility for using technology positively.
- All staff are expected to confirm they have read and understood the Acceptable Use Policy.
- All staff are expected to confirm they have read and understood the National Schools Code of Conduct
- All students are expected to confirm they have read and understood the Acceptable Use Policy.
Guidelines for Staff
If you suspect or are told about a cyber-bullying incident, follow the protocol outlined below
- Ask the student to show you the mobile phone
- Note clearly everything on the screen relating to an inappropriate text message or image, to include the date, time and names
- Make a transcript of a spoken message, again record date, times and names
- Tell the student to save the message/image
- Inform the Principal, Vice Principal or Dean of Discipline immediately and pass them the information that you have
Lab or Personal Computers
- Ask the student to get up on-screen the material in question
- Ask the student to save the material
- Print the offending material
- Make sure you have got all pages in the right order and that there are no omissions
- Inform the Principal, Vice Principal or Dean of Discipline and pass them the information that you have
- Normal procedures to interview student and to take statements will then be followed particularly if a child protection issue is presented.
Guidelines for Students
The school will deal with cyberbullying and the inappropriate use of technology in the same way as other bullying. Do not think that because it is online it is different to other forms of bullying. If you believe you or someone else is the victim of cyber-bullying, you must speak to an adult as soon as possible and:
- Do not answer abusive messages; but save them (via screenshot) and report them
- Do not delete anything until it has been shown to your parents or a member of staff at school (even if it is upsetting, the material is important evidence which may need to be used later as proof of cyberbullying)
- Do not give out personal details or contact information without the permission of a parent/guardian
- Be careful who you allow to become a friend online and think about what information you want them to see.
- Protect your password. Do not share it with anyone else and change it regularly
- Always log off from or lock the computer when you have finished or if you leave the computer for any reason.
- Always configure the privacy settings on to the sites you use.
- Never reply to abusive e-mails
- Never reply to someone you do not know
- Avoid private areas in chat rooms with people you are not familiar with
Guidelines for Parents
Parents must play their role and take responsibility for monitoring their child’s online life.
- Parents can help by making sure their child understands the school’s policy as it pertains to cyber-bullying and the inappropriate use of technology.
- Parents should also explain to their children legal issues relating to cyber-bullying.
- If parents/carers believe their child is the victim of cyber-bullying, they should save the offending material (if need be by saving the offensive text on their computer or on their child’s mobile phone) and make sure they have all relevant information before deleting anything.
- Parents/carers should contact the school as soon as possible.
- If the incidence is threatening to the child, a report can also be made directly to the Cyber Crime and Social Media Unit of the TTPS.
- Parents/carers should attend any sessions conducted by the school which speak on Cyberbullying and Internet safety
Cyberbullying and the Law
Bullying is never acceptable and the school fully recognizes its duty to protect all of its members and to provide a safe, healthy environment for everyone.
Ministry of Education
- The National Schools Code of Conduct outlines some guidelines which relate more directly to cyberbullying.
- The Policy on Use of Mobile Handheld Electronic Communications Devices in Schools (2007) also provides a defence for staff in confiscating items such as mobile phones from students.
Civil and Criminal Law
With the CyberCrime Bill (2017) still being debated, there is not a specific law which makes cyberbullying illegal but it can be considered a criminal offence under several different acts including:
- Summary Offences Act Chap 11:02
- Computer Misuse Act (2000)
- Children Act Chap 46:01
The Cyber Crime and Social Media Unit is a specialized team in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service. Their primary role is to provide technical assistance in the detection and investigations of crime wherein the computer is the target or the means used. The Cyber Crime Unit is made up of police officers who are trained in the investigation of crimes that take place over the internet or through the use of a computer.
The TTPS Cyber Crime and Social Media Unit can be contacted via the following means:
Telephone 1: 1-868-612-0742
Telephone 2: 1-868-715-2072
Citizens wishing to file an online report related to cyberbullying or any related cybercrime, can do so at this link. This is the same Report a crime link that you would find on the TTPS website.
Victims must be able to produce evidence of the cyberbullying activity such as but not limited to:
- screenshots of text messages
- saved images
- voice notes
- video recording
- printed emails
Victims must also be ready to give a statement about the incident so that investigations can be done.
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