Cyber bullying and secondary schools: request for research assistance

Georgina Emmanuel's picture
My apologies for using this website to request some help from secondary school teachers, policy advisers, researchers and so on. My daughter is writing her MA dissertation on cyber bullying and the role of teachers in secondary schools in meeting this challenge. Unfortunately her dissertation has to be a literature review rather than empirical research.

She is not a teacher. Therefore if anyone can advise on good literature or give examples of professional experiences/policies, she would be most grateful.

She says there is loads of stuff on bullying and school policy but she is not quite sure where cyber bullying sits as most of it happens outside the schools' jurisdiction. So, for example, how is it investigated and who is ultimately responsible for working with the children affected?

Her own field of interest is cyber bullying and body image.

Thank you so much.
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Roger Titcombe's picture
Thu, 11/12/2014 - 12:27

Hello Georgina

In my experience school anti-bullying policies are very variable and many are completely ineffective. Certainly those that seek to limit the jurisdiction of the school in relation to bullying will be in the latter category. In the old days before social media, bullies could still make other pupil's lives a misery by controlling and intimidating them in school through threats of retribution out of school. Schools that were unwilling to address such threats and intimidation, wherever they were implemented, would not be able to help. The point is that the threats and the control that results takes place in school, affects pupils in the care of the school, affects their ability to succeed and engage with school and must therefore be an issue for the school.

The second general category of useless anti-bullying policies are those that seek to prevent it through threats of punishment. This never works and results in denials and worse trouble for the victims.

What works are policies that see bullying as problems to be solved, not misbehaviour to be prevented through punishment.

What works are policies that require schools to thoroughly investigate incidents and ongoing bullying cultures with a view to resolving them through 'truth and reconciliation' sessions requiring aggressors to admit their actions in the presence of victims and peers (School Council involvement is a good strategy), followed by binding promises in relation to future conduct, again made in the presence of victims and peers. In my school we used to video these to show parents on either side.

This is not a soft approach. Bullies that break their promises made in the presence of victims and peers face permanent exclusion - but we never had to do it.

I see no reason why this approach would not be effective with 'cyber' bullying. The key is to establish a proper School Council (not one of the token DfE imposed variety) as a route to getting genuine school-wide consensus and awareness on the part of pupils, who then take an active part in implementing the anti-bullying policy.

I have a lot of stuff on this - Janet Downs could put you in contact with me.

My granddaughter's junior school works like this. It is brilliant. However I know of many secondaries that don't. The general picture I fear, is pretty dire and in my view getting worse.

Arthur Harada's picture
Fri, 12/12/2014 - 10:38

I'm sorry I have no direct experience of cyber bullying. What I would suggest as Professor Joad was famous for is, " What exactly do you mean by the term cyber bullying? This is not a facile question but clarification and scope of the meaning "cyber bullying" as understood by those who report it happening to them and those determined to eradicate the practice.. There could well be a mis-match.
Has your daughter contemplated undertaking a literature search of US of A publications by victims of "cyber bullying" as well as any American programs in secondary schools that have reported success in reducing the incidence, obviously better still minimalising to zero the impact of perpetrators.
I well appreciate the several reasons why her research is not emprical if it were to require her to undertake in-depth interviews of victims. I apologise if my reply raises more questions than answers. Good luck to your daughter in her endeavours.

Georgina Emmanuel's picture
Sat, 13/12/2014 - 16:11

Thanks so much Arthur. I think that research is all about raising questions. I'll forward this on to my daughter.

The reason she is doing a literature review rather than empirical research appears to be the university's recommendation as her tutor seemed adamant that my daughter would not get her topic through the ethics committee stage.

Thanks again.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 14/12/2014 - 13:53

There appears to be some problem with posting comments. I'll report it.

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