Forum Report: Thurs 28 Jun 2007: Cyber Bullying

Guest speakers:

Louise Burfitt-Dons – Act Against Bullying

Niki Molnar – IT/Internet Consultant

Tim Loughton MP – Member for Shoreham & East Worthing, Shadow Minister for Children

In the Chair- Lady Hodgson – Chairman CWO

Chair’s Welcome

Fiona Hodgson opened the panel session with a brief explanation of the all pervasive nature of the internet, the rise of personal space websites, the availability of mobile phones, personal security and other related issues.

Louise Burfitt-Dons (Act Against Bullying)

Louise thanked the CWO for organising the event and keeping the issue of bullying of all forms at the top of the agenda.

Statistics and specifics on bullying:

  • Long term psychological damage to people worldwide
  • Victims sometimes taking their own lives
  • Suicide rate of bullied young people at 25 plus per year
  • In Japan – 5 children committed suicide in 4 days related to bulling
  • Columbine shootings – related to bullying, also possibly Virginia Tech
  • Wilfully repeated harm through text messaging
  • Humiliation games

Main reasons:

  • Disinhibition factor – no body language, easier to send hate mail
  • Power of the internet – easy to lay false information trails, power shift from traditional to cyber
  • Information – accessible and huge, suicide sites etc
  • Not enough education re what’s possible on the internet ie seemingly innocent photography etc can be used on unsavoury websites
  • Big brother syndrome – instant photography, camera phones, photoshop software, fame in minutes, misrepresentation
  • Cyber bullies can be obsessional and get kick out of watching others react as much as physical bullies. Accessible and global medium.

What to do?

  • Strategies for young people and parents on issues, information, possibilities,
  • back up by software/computer/mobile phone companies.
  • Communication between children/parents/schools

Niki Molnar

Has been involved with IT and the Internet since 1991.

Hints and tips will be placed on the CWO website

She gave an example of a young overweight Canadian boy of 14 years of age who video taped himself at school imitating the martial art moves of the Star Wars character, Darth Maul. Unfortunately, he left the the video in the camera. The tape was found by a classmate, digitised and uploaded onto the Internet causing the young boy to be humiliated. 900 Million Internet users have viewed this footage. The boy is receiving treatment for depression and his experience caused him to drop out of school.

Main issues currently:

  • Rise of user generated content – content generated by anyone connected to the internet
  • Rise in cameras and compact cameras
  • founded 2005 and other similar sites – MySpace, Facebook, Beebo etc.
  • Personal site space involves supposedly hilarious movie clips, photos and items of groups of friends prepared to lose all dignity
  • Uploaded videos and imagines: issues over ownership. VERY grey area if you did not record the images personally

  • if a photograph is taken of a person whilst they are ‘in the public domain’ then that photograph belongs to the person who has taken the photograph. They hold the copyright and can do any thing with that photograph they choose
  • U tube hosted on US servers, no jurisdiction from here
  • Issues over removal of information if images not owned
  • Terms and conditions need clarification/legal guidelines
  • Advice to be careful, think before uploading personal photographs and information

Tim Loughton MP

DfES report on bullying: 50% of school pupils reported bullying of some kind.

NCH report:

  • 20% digital bullying
  • 14% text message bullying
  • 5% bullied in chat rooms
  • 4% bullied via email
  • 75% knew the perpetrator
  • Less than 25% reported this to parents, even less to teaching staff
  • Childhood Review will include Corporate social responsibility for children, which is his remit for the Review
  • Mobile phone companies had started to take this on board following reporting of phone bullying and happy slapping.
  • Conservatives have been meeting with the main providers.
  • O2 being quite progressive – issuing leaflets on bullying and other issues
  • All companies automatically disabling access to adult content if sold to an under 18

What to do nationally?

  • Government to be clearer on education programmes
  • Anti bullying programmes
  • Teaching adults how cyber bullying works
  • Filters to disable adult content as standard
  • BBFC – more responsible categorising and classification of video games
  • Education and responsibility for parents
  • Information to be accessible and available
  • In school – system of peer mediators
  • Home/school contracts

Personal Tips:

  • Buy safety software and filters
  • Ask school IT department what PC controlling software they use – you may be able to get a free or discounted copy for home use
  • Discuss online safety and ground rules
  • Be selective with online interaction
  • Pay attention to emails before opening
  • Family sited computers not in bedrooms
  • Never meet in person without huge safeguards
  • Review mobile phone features
  • Know how and where to report abuse
  • Don’t trade personal information for freebies
  • Check safeguards on external computers and friends computers
  • Safe online names
  • Sit down regularly with children online
  • Wise up as parents – ignorance of the technology no longer an excuse


  • Internet is its own regulator
  • Biggest servers outside of jurisdiction
  • Google/Yahoo becoming more responsible
  • Make it an offence to access a site that gives rise to violence or crime
  • Pressure on ISPs to clean up their customers
  • Purchasers of porn to be denied credit cards if car companies worked together
  • Parents to take more responsibility
  • Raising of children’s self esteem in other ways offline

Discussion and comment from the floor:

  • Phones should be simpler
  • More training and guidance for parents with schools
  • Alerting children to it not being a 2D world/ restricting access and time
  • Schools to have stricter mobile phone policies
  • Relationships between parents and children / current disconnect surrounding technology
  • Peer pressure / interplay between groups
  • Group/pack behaviour – encouraging children not to become part of the pack
  • One to one discussions
  • Girls more likely to text bully 73% receive, 10% admit to sending
  • Cyber bullying not seen as school related by teachers
  • Lack of body language and messages
  • Teaching responsibility/politeness/courtesy online/phone as equal to real life
  • Bullies often already know shame and humiliation, so punishment doesn’t always work
  • Licensing of Google and similar sites to ensure accountability
  • Ring fenced site – limited site access with no immediate access to whole web
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