An international study has found English schools to have the biggest problems with cyberbullying out of 48 industrialised nations. The OECD study showed that bullying in England had increased over the past five years, driven by online behaviour.
14% of headteachers in England faced problems each week caused by “hurtful” material posted about pupils online, compared with an international average of 2%.
And 27% faced problems each week caused by pupils receiving “unwanted contact” online (such as receiving bullying messages). The international average was just 3%.
Some countries like France have banned smartphones in schools, but England’s schools don’t have one consistent approach. The education director of the OECD said that rather than leaving headteachers to try and cope with these effects, he would like to see more regulation of social media.
Could new laws help?
The UK now plans to set up a new regulator to hold internet companies to account. Social media platforms would have to adhere to a code of practice, including limits on their more addictive features for under-18s. They would also be held responsible for harmful content that appears on their platforms. Read more about it here.
In the meantime
Although social media platforms could take a lot more responsibility for safeguarding young users, we can also try to help young people to think more carefully about what they are doing online, and what the repercussions of their behaviour might be.
Even adults seem to have problems regulating their behaviour online, so it’s a challenge! But our REAL workshops help teenagers to think more deeply about these issues and discuss them honestly. Through all our projects in schools, we want to foster respect and kindness and help young people to live out these values in their everyday lives.