NGOs join forces to fight cyber-bullying

Photo: Clare Bloomfield, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Cyber-bullying has become a serious problem in Czech schools and one that teachers are often poorly equipped to deal with. Two NGOs –Aisis and Nadace 02 – have launched a project aimed at raising awareness of the problem and fighting it.

Although half of Czech school children do not know what the term cyber-bullying means –one in ten have experienced it in person, most frequently in the form of harassment and ridicule via sms messages, e-mails and on Facebook. The head of the Stop Cyber- bullying project Jana Udatná says that unlike physical attacks, mental harassment is harder for teachers to detect and can do immense damage.

“Most of it is in the form of sms messages because everyone in school has a mobile. It can take place right under the teacher’s nose without their having any suspicion. Increasingly though cyber-bullying takes place on the web –with kids being filmed on mobile phones and placed on You-tube – there their humiliation is seen by a vast number of people and that is most frustrating of all for the victim.”

Anonymous polls show that very few victims ask for help – or even realize what is happening to them. Experts blame this on the fact that while the young generation is heavily dependent on mobile phones and the internet for communication, kids get very little or no information about the dangers it presents, how they may put themselves at risk or violate the rights of others. Dozens of small bullies blackmail their victims demanding money in return for not putting a sensitive picture of information on the web. Older kids who are light years ahead of their teachers in using the Internet set up Facebook pages in their classmate’s name or even target the teacher in this manner using stuff recorded in the classroom.

Photo: Clare Bloomfield, FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The Stop Cyber-bullying project has set out to educate both students and teachers in how to recognize and deal with the problem –but more importantly how to prevent it. The first phase is to get kids to open up about their experience in a creative way. Younger children play games, perform plays and create their own cartoons on the subject, revealing much more than they would talking to a teacher or psychologist, higher grades debate the issue from a human rights angle and the 100 schools involved in the project are taking part in a competition for the best film clip on the subject. The motivation for older kids is that they get to meet IT specialists and people from the advertisement business who will feed them know-how. The winning team will then be asked to produce its own campaign against cyber-bullying.