Tackling cyberbullying in Maltese schools

  • Awareness
  • 21/01/2019
  • Maltese Safer Internet Centre

Maltese Safer Internet Centre (SIC) BeSmartOnline! reflects on cyberbullying and in particular on schools' responsibilities to tackle this issue.  

Cyberbullying is one particular form of bullying, but it does not sit on its own. It is bullying that is enabled, enhanced, or in some way, mediated through digital technology. Due to the increase in the use of social media, students may find themselves more easily drawn into initiating or being part of bullying behaviour in the digital environment. The ease of using technology and the influence of their peers can be a factor in this, and can create a disruptive environment within the schools.

Some argue that schools should not be responsible for what happens outside of school. However, if the students being bullied and bullying others are attending the same or different schools, then it seems inevitable that some of the problems will leak over during class time or occur on school property. Cyberbullying presents new challenges, because it can start outside of school and carry on in school or vice versa.  Thus, it is important that both parents/guardians and educators in schools do their utmost to avoid these undesired behaviours. It is the parents/guardians' responsibility to monitor the technological use of their children once away from school, whilst it is the teaching staff's duties to take note and pass on any information regarding any incidents concerning cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying also presents different challenges because it manifests itself differently than face-to-face bullying.

  1. Repetition – Cyberbullying can be influenced by the ability of a single action to spread and be repeated rapidly to a wider audience and with a degree of permanence (forwarding texts/videos/pictures).
  2. Power imbalance – This is created through the anonymity of the person initiating the cyberbullying; or the person's ability to use technology in a manipulative way.
  3. Anonymity – Cyberbullying can involve people who have never physically met, do not know each other, or people who share no common acquaintances.
  4. Pervasiveness - It is very difficult for the victim to get away from the abusive situation.

Therefore, cyberbullying is a form of aggression conducted by an individual or a group against others. Such behaviour is committed via electronic means. A person can be also ostracised from electronic communities or interactions. Cyberbullying includes (but is not limited to) communicating via electronic means with the objective of causing hurt, fear, embarrassment, humiliation, alarm or distress to one or more people.

Examples of cyberbullying include:

  • Exclusion – A deliberate act of leaving a person out from online conversations and tagging other friends but not the person in question.
  • Harassment – Intentionally sending abusive or threatening messages (harassment).
  • Fraping – Logging onto a person's social networking account and impersonating them by posting inappropriate content.
  • Dissing – Sending or posting cruel information about someone to damage their reputation.
  • Catfishing – Stealing someone's online identity, usually photos, and recreating them on social networking profiles for deceptive purposes.

The BeSmartOnline! team, together with the Ministry of Education, have issued guidelines to the Senior Management Teams so that they are in a better position to deal effectively with this phenomenon for the wellbeing of all students.

Find out more information about the work of the Maltese Safer Internet Centre (SIC) generally, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services, or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.

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