4.1 General Guidelines

Based on this comprehensive analysis, a number of recommendations were made for each target group. The following subchapters will summarize the recommended guidelines1 blended with some ideas and resources for further exploration. Guidelines are divided in four sections that are important for designing a good school-wide strategy:

  • knowledge and competences
  • proactive policies and practices
  • collaborative partnerships and
  • social environment.

In each section, suggestions are given for each of the main identified stakeholders: young people, parents, teachers, and schools.

4.1.1 Knowledge and competences

Firstly, guidelines for raising awareness about cyberbullying and skill building are presented for all stakeholders. This is the strongest area of many anti-bullying programs, including typical school strategies.

Young people need:

  • Awareness raising activities to help them understand cyberbullying, its effects, and consequences.
  • Technical skills to use technology effectively and to stay safe online or using smartphones.
  • Specific skills for various online activities like social networking, blogging, chatting or gaming.
  • Principles of netiquette (the same standards of behaviour apply online as they do in real life).
  • Knowledge and the confidence to respond effectively to a cyber-attack.
  • Information about the risks and benefits of responding to cyber-attacks in different ways (what is likely to happen if they respond assertively, aggressively, passively, emotionally…).
  • Opportunities to improve their social skills, level of empathy, moral reasoning, conflict resolution skills and anger management.
Parents need:

  • Information about a safer mobile phone and Internet use, about different modes of electronic communication and how they are used in cyberbullying.
  • Knowledge how to help their children determine how they can report a problem, secure privacy settings or block unwanted communication.
  • Awareness that even though their children are skilled technically they may not know how to use the technology in safe ways.
  • Information on signs of cyberbullying, particularly becoming withdrawn, moody or depressed, upset or angry when online or reading a text, so they can provide support for their children during this time.
  • Skills to talk with their children about cyberbullying and not to wait until bullying happens.
Teachers need:

  • Professional training to intervene effectively in cyberbullying situations.
  • Understanding of group dynamics and conflict management skills.
  • Development of their own digital competences including technology use, cyber-safety, and online etiquette rules.
Schools need:

  • Age appropriate strategies for action and behavioural change when intervening in bullying.
  • Support to consistently implement existing strategies.
  • Positive discipline, cooperative learning methods, and effective conflict resolution approaches,
  • Endorsement of positive uses of technology and anti-cyberbullying interventions.
  • Strategies to develop online communication and other social skills, such as digital citizenship.

4.1.2 Proactive policies, plans and practices

A good school-wide approach against cyberbullying includes proactive school policies, plans, and procedures that are effectively implemented in practice and regularly evaluated. The following guidelines emphasize some relevant considerations from the viewpoint of different stakeholders.

Firstly, guidelines for raising awareness about cyberbullying and skill building are presented for all stakeholders. This is the strongest area of many anti-bullying programs, including typical school strategies.

Young people need:

  • A sense of ownership of their school’s anti-bullying policy.
  • Their opinions on the definition, procedures for reporting and investigating and intervention strategies for dealing with cyberbullying to be taken into consideration as relevant.
  • Encouragement to be responsible for their own online safely rather than relying on restrictive adult supervision.
  • Development of digital citizenship through peer support programmes, cyber-mentoring and counselling.
Parents need:

  • Attitude of respect and tolerance of others.
  • Ability to be explicit in their disapproval of cyberbullying.
  • Familiarity with policies and procedures in place in their children’s school.
  • Opportunities to participate in developing school policies and strategies.
Teachers need:

  • Clear, consistent and accurate information, support, and procedures for preventing, detecting, reporting, and responding to cyberbullying from the school management.
  • Training on how to act when cyberbullying happens.
  • Encouragement from school management to consistently implement and evaluate effective responses to cyberbullying situations.
Schools need:

  • An integrated and uniform approach for staff and all other members of the school community to preventing, detecting, reporting, and responding to cyberbullying.
  • Support and consistency from the school management on issues of cyberbullying.
  • On-going conversations with students about cyberbullying.
  • Staff members acting as role models and students supporting those who are victimised.

4.1.3 Collaborative school-family-community partnerships

Schools and families are among the most important risk factors as well as protective factors in cyberbullying. To deal with cyberbullying effectively, links between communities need to be established and resources in local communities should be utilized. The following guidelines discuss the needs of all stakeholders from the partnership building perspective.

Young people need:

  • Empowerment to report cyberbullying to school staff, parents or other trusted adults.
  • Awareness of resources in local communities, including agencies and organisations where they can find information, advice and guidance on internet safety and cyberbullying.
  • Encouragement to seek counselling if affected by cyberbullying.
  • Awareness that the sooner unacceptable behaviour is addressed the sooner cyberbullying will stop.
Parents need:

  • Encouragement to take action when they suspect their child is being cyberbullied or is bullying someone else.
  • Awareness that children can both be cyberbullied and bully others and that cyberbullying might also be linked to ‘traditional’ bullying.
  • Encouragement to familiarize themselves with their children’s school’s policies and procedures for cyberbullying.
  • Communication skills to stress to their children there is no shame in being bullied and that they should not hesitate to seek help from parents, teachers, youth leaders or others.
  • The ability not to over-react to cyberbullying or deny their children online and phone access if they are being targeted, but instead cooperating with their children to find possible ways of dealing with cyber-attacks.
Teachers need:

  • Active collaboration with parents to establish strategies for dealing with cyberbullying.
  • Contact with parents when appropriate, and increased parental and community awareness about cyberbullying.
Schools need:

  • Active participation of all members of the school community, teachers, parents and students in order to combat cyberbullying.
  • Awareness of all stakeholders that cyberbullying is a shared responsibility.
  • In cyberbullying situations, all parties involved need to contact each other and work together.

4.1.4 Social environment and school culture

The ‘climate’ or rather the ‘culture’ of social environments that students are a part of, plays an often invisible but important role in cyberbullying prevention and intervention. The following guidelines examine what different stakeholders need to contribute to a positive, healthy, bully-free social environment.

Young people need:

  • Awareness of how important it is to support peers that are targets of cyberbullying in and out of school and awareness of the importance of reporting the incidents.
  • Training in effective strategies which they can use should they be witness to their peers being cyberbullied.
  • Support when defending or seeking help for peers that are targets of cyberbullying.
  • Opportunities to develop leadership skills, moral reasoning, empathy, and emotional coping.
  • Students are in a unique position to have a vital role in addressing the problems of cyberbullying in schools, and should be actively engaged in these processes.
  • Opportunities to practice safe bystander skills in the school.
  • Assurance that parents, teachers and other adults will not over-react if they report cyberbullying as they often fail to report incidents of cyberbullying behaviour to school personnel for fear that the technology will be taken away.
Parents need:

  • Awareness of the role of bystanders, peer pressure and positive peer influence in relation to cyberbullying. They should encourage their children to intervene when they witness cyberbullying.
  • Should parents learn of their children’s involvement in cyberbullying, they need to stress their disapproval and talk to their children about its damaging impact and consequences.
  • Understanding of how important it is to lead by example and to have a positive and supportive relationship with their children.
  • Established trust with their children, support in a non-judgemental and positive style.
  • Encouragement to promote good social skills, in particular empathy, good moral reasoning, self-esteem and resilience of their children to reduce the risk of them becoming involved in cyberbullying.
Teachers need:

  • Active involvement of all stakeholders in creating a positive atmosphere in the classroom and positive relationships with their students.
  • Training how to enable, assist and reinforce students in supporting targets of cyberbullying and how to work with students who cyberbully others.
  • Ways to encourage students to report cyberbullying behaviour.
  • Close teacher-student relationships to ensure a more positive class and school climate.
  • Skills to notice and address conflicts and problematic situations between students.
  • Opportunities to learn about the ways students use the Internet, while the students need to learn ways to solve social problems and develop social skills from teachers.
Schools need:

  • A positive and supportive school culture developed through positive relationships they build among staff and students.
  • Caring, supportive and authoritative school personnel that contribute to better relationships, positive classroom climate, and supportive school culture.
  • Open, supportive and trustworthy atmosphere with clear guidelines about how the community is expected to behave and respond to cyberbullying.
  • Knowledge and skills to effectively respond and give support to those who are cyberbullied; to effectively teach these skills to all stakeholders.
  • Strategies to encourage help-seeking behaviours from students, staff and parents.
  • Promotion of positive discipline models instead of punitive approaches.
  • A school culture that does not tolerate cyberbullying.