07 Feb 2012

Schools are e-safe, but cyberbullying is rife

A new survey has revealed that cyberbullying is a huge issue for today’s school pupils. 91% of secondary school teachers and 52% of primary school teachers surveyed reported that pupils have experienced cyberbullying. Although most teachers (87%) were confident that pupils were safe from internet harm at school, only 58% felt that their pupils had the skills and knowledge to use the internet safely at home.

The survey of 1,300 teachers was commissioned by Vital, The Open University’s Professional Development Programme for teachers, which is funded by the Department for Education. The survey analysed primary and secondary school teachers’ attitudes towards internet safety and the use of social networking and smartphones, finding that teachers today face new challenges in managing pupils’ use of these technologies.

80% of secondary school teachers feel there is a growing problem in schools with pupils’ phones which allow access to the internet and social networking sites. The most common form of cyberbullying is via social networking sites, and most teachers feel that these sites should be banned during the school day.

Director of the Vital Programme, Dr Peter Twining said, “I have great sympathy for hard-pressed teachers, but collecting mobile phones in a cardboard box at the school gate is not the answer. The technology is not going away. Schools need to focus on helping pupils and teachers to get the best from smartphones and other technologies, whilst also developing responsible behaviours and learning patterns.”

Nearly all of the teachers surveyed said that their schools have an internet safety policy and although many use social networks themselves, this was an area where the fewest number of teachers felt confident in advising pupils. A quarter of primary and half of secondary teachers felt that staff had received inadequate e-safety training.

Dr Twining continued, “These findings imply that a significant number of teachers, particularly within the secondary phase of education, want or need more support in dealing with e-safety. Schools need to focus on appropriate staff development. It is a big challenge, but there are many benefits to engaging pupils with technology – and a wealth of resources available to help.”

Vital provides free events and resources via its website (, which includes subject and special interest portals helping teachers to explore ways of bringing technology into the classroom. There is a portal dedicated to e-safety which is one of the most popular amongst the 7,200 Vital users.

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