Skip to main content

UK schools need to do more to tackle trolling and online abuse

Schools in England are not doing enough to educate children regarding the dangers of trolling and cyber bullying, according to the Commons education select committee.

As part of a government drive to tackle online abuse, the Department for Education has issued new statutory guidelines on how to protect children when online.

Read more: tries to escape teen suicides, cyber bullying reputation by moving to Ireland

The regulations stipulate that all children above the age of five in local authority schools must be taught about Internet safety.

Isabella Sorley, who was jailed for sending abusive messages to feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, now visits schools to educate children on the pain caused by online bullying.

"There's banter and then there's bullying, and even bullying doesn't cover what I did. I went to the extreme - it was absolutely disgusting," she said.

"Ultimately I'm here to warn you that anyone can land in prison. It's not just going to be the stereotypical person from a broken home. I do have a degree, I have 13 GCSEs, so please just be careful what you do put on social media because what you write down, there's always a record.

There have been a number of high-profile reports of online abuse in recent weeks, including Olympic athlete Jessica Ennis Hill receiving rape threats via Twitter. Conservative MP Graham Stuart, who is leading the committee, told the BBC that teachers need to do more to educate children on the subject.

"What's clear from Ofsted and other reports is that schools are failing to provide young people with the guidance and support they need to be safe online,” he said.

"Schools have a part to play in ensuring young people are safe and are kept away from the misery and depression which online abuse can bring about."

A recent YouGov survey revealed that two-thirds of teachers had witnessed pupils abusing each other online, but more than 40 per cent said that they had never been taught Internet safety.

Read more: US government unleashes secret weapon against ISIS: Internet trolling

The decision to restructure how schools deal with cyber bullying comes as parliament also considers tougher penalties for online trolls, including a maximum two-year jail sentence.

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with IT Pro Portal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.