What can schools do about cyber bullies?

Reader Chong Tack Mien wanted to know what disciplinary actions schools can take against students who are cyber bullies.

Madam Chong said that cyber-bullying cases are not uncommon in her 15-year-old daughter's class. In a recent incident, the perpetrators were given a verbal warning by the school's vice-principal, but that did not stop them from continuing to victimise a classmate online.

She called for more to be done to deter such virtual attacks, which may result in actual harm, and asked: "Are the rules and regulations of schools updated to deal with such crimes?"

Education reporter Calvin Yang has the answers.

With the Internet, bullying does not stop in school. These days, the online space has become a new playground for bullies to carry out their taunts and threats.

Cyber bullying happens when someone hurts, harasses and threatens another over digital devices and related platforms, such as social media, blogs and text messages.

Schools here are provided with guidelines to manage discipline. Within these guidelines, each school comes up with its own set of rules, taking into account its student profile and what would best meet students' needs.

Schools take corrective action against persistent offenders, such as suspending their privilege to use mobile phones or information and communication technology-enabled devices in school.

A bully's parents are informed and involved in monitoring his online activities. Guidance and counselling are also provided.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) said bullying, including cyber bullying, is unacceptable, and this is emphasised to students. Students and parents who are aware of cyber-bullying incidents are encouraged to alert the schools, so that necessary action can be taken.

MOE added that "an educative approach" is adopted to help students learn and change from the episode.

To deter cyber bullies, schools take corrective action against repeat offenders, and also teach students appropriate online behaviour as well as steps to take to protect themselves. ST FILE PHOTO

"From time to time, students may make wrong choices as they are still learning," said an MOE spokesman.

Besides corrective action, formal lessons and special programmes, such as those on cyber wellness, teach students appropriate behaviours and the actions to take when they encounter bad ones.

They also learn to take steps to protect themselves and others, such as keeping their personal information private and seeking help when needed.

Schools also have cyber-wellness student ambassadors, role models who influence their peers to create a safe online community.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2017, with the headline 'What can schools do about cyber bullies?'. Print Edition | Subscribe