In the Media

Parents of cyber-bullies slapped with ?1,000 fines

PUBLISHED July 26, 2006

PARENTS of persistent school bullies could face fines of up to ?1,000 if they fail to tackle their children?s behaviour.

The Government has issued tough new guidelines on cyber-bullying as research published today shows that one in five pupils has been bullied via their mobile phone or the internet.

Under the guidelines, schools will have to monitor ?all e-communications on the school site or as part of school activities off-site?. They will also have to update their anti-bullying policies and teach pupils e-etiquette.

?No child should suffer the misery of bullying, online or offline, and we will support schools in tackling it in cyberspace with the same vigilance as in the playground,? said Jim Knight, the Schools Minister.

?Every school should account for cyber-bullying in their compulsory anti-bullying policies, and should take firm action where it occurs.?

Mr Knight said that the Education and Inspections Bill would give teachers a ?legal right to discipline pupils? and enable them to take firm action on bullying.

Meanwhile, orders would force parents to tackle their child?s persistent bullying and attend parenting classes or face ?1,000 fines.

Currently, pupils must be excluded once or suspended twice from school before their parents face any fine.

According to recent estimates, almost two thirds of teenagers aged 13 to 17 have home pages on networking sites, where they post photographs or chat with friends.

A survey for the Anti-Bullying Alliance ? involving 92 pupils from 14 London schools ? found that a fifth had been victims of bullying by text, email or phone at least once or twice in the past two months.

?Happy slapping? ? in which an attack on a victim is videoed via mobile phone ? was considered to be the worst form of cyber-bullying, while chatroom and instant-message bullying were considered less harmful than traditional forms.

One third of the victims said that they did not report bullying incidents.

The study was led by Peter Smith, Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths College, London. He said: ?Ten years ago, psychologists thought of aggression in verbal or physical terms, which traditionally was a male domain. But cyber-bullying is more akin to relational or indirect bullying, such as spreading rumours, where girls are more likely to get involved.?

For phone abuse, the Government recommends that victims turn off incoming SMS for a few days, change their phone number and do not reply to text or video messages. Text harrassment is punishable by up to six months in prison.