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Teaching about online bullying

In late 2020, we conducted consultations with young people about online bullying and how they felt teachers approached anti-online bullying and online safety teaching. We have created guidance that includes some of their tips and advice to help teachers and other children’s workforce professionals deliver effective anti-online bullying practice to children and young people.

Don't forget we have free CPD online training for professionals which includes a module on onlinebullying. Please do distribute it to whomever you think would be interested.

Teaching about online bullying

There are a wealth of tools and resources from many organisations that can help schools and other settings for young people to understand online bullying and online safety. You can find links to them across our website. Our conversations with young people highlighted some specific tips about how anti-online bullying lessons and school activities can be delivered effectively.

  1. Teachers and school staff need to have some level of understanding of social media platforms that their pupils are using: Do you know what young people are doing online? Whilst the age restrictions for social media sites tend to be over the age of 13, this is currently very easy to get around for young people. You may be surprised at some of the content that young people are seeing online, even at primary age. It is vital you have a good understanding of the online sites, apps and games that your pupils are using. You do not need to understand every detail of each social media or gaming platform that a child might be using but the basics would be helpful. Ask yourself ‘do I know how to report content on the most popular apps?’ and ‘Do I know what the new popular apps are being used for?’.
  2. Teachers should acknowledge that many pupils know much more about these platforms than they do: The young people we spoke to said that sometimes it was quite obvious when adults didn’t know much about certain apps/sites they use. The trends and platforms that young people use can change very quickly. The most important thing is to listen. Try to use open questions and don’t jump to conclusions about the type of content pupils are posting. 
  3. Let young people take the lead: The young people we spoke with said they wanted schools to listen to them and allow them to share what they do online. This would give them some time to tell you all the positive things that they do online and then give them space to raise the fears they have or even to highlight things that they might not have realised were things that may leave them exposed. 
  4. Include everyone: We know that some groups are more likely to experience online bullying than others. We have consulted with disabled young people and those with SEN about their experiences of online bullying. It is vital that we support all pupils to understand about online bullying and safety. For some children that might take more time or a differentiated approach. We found that many children with SEND:
    • had experienced bullying online. This was often an extension of the face-to-face bullying they experienced, it often went unchallenged, or they were not supported to respond to it.
    • were not using the internet, despite being able to do so. For some, this was because they were not given the support to do so. For others, it was because they had been discouraged from using the internet or were afraid to do so for fear of experiencing online bullying. This means young people are also missing out on the many positive aspects of the internet. 
    • had not been supported to learn about online bullying or internet safety. This meant they were not aware of how to stay safe online, what to do about online bullying, or made it difficult for them to know if some of the things happening online were bullying. 
17 Apr 2017

External Tools and Research