Guidance on Cyber Bullying

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1 Guidance on Cyber Bullying Human Resources

2 HR Policies Discipline Grievance Bullying and harassment Equal opportunities Stress management Sickness absence Staff handbook Social media Dignity at work Mediation ICTS Policies Acceptable use policy policy Student Regulations IT handbook Cyber Bullying Resource MMU Newsletters Student Services Policies Student handbook Counselling links Health and Safety Policies

3 What is Cyber Bullying? Cyber bullying is the term used to define bullying behaviour that takes place via mobile phone or over the internet through s, instant messaging and social networking websites. Texts, messages or images are sent or posted on sites, which hurt, intimidate or embarrass another person. Cyber bullying is not carried out face to face and people often don t know the identity of the person targeting them. But cyber bullying is no different from any other form of bullying; the behaviour is the same and the impact is no less devastating. Advances in technology are simply providing alternative means of reaching people where malicious messages were once written on books or toilet walls, they can now be sent via mobile phone or the internet. Some cyber bullying is clearly deliberate and aggressive, but it is important to recognise that some incidents of cyber bullying are known to be unintentional and the result of simply not thinking about the consequences. What may be sent as a joke may not be received as one, and indeed the reach of technology means the sender may not see the impact of the message on the receiver. There is also less opportunity for either party to resolve any misunderstanding or to feel empathy. It is important that everyone is aware of the effects of their actions. With cyber bullying, bystanders can easily become perpetrators by passing on or showing to others images designed to humiliate, for example, or by taking part in online polls or discussion groups. They may not recognise themselves as participating in bullying, but their involvement compounds the misery for the person targeted. Although bullying is not a specific criminal offence in UK law, there are criminal laws that can apply in terms of harassment or threatening behaviour. For example and particularly pertinent for cyber bullying threatening and menacing communications. In fact, some cyber bullying activities could be criminal offences under a range of different laws, including: Protection from Harassment Act 1997 Crime & Disorder Act 1998 Communications Act 2003 Defamation Malicious Communications Act 1988 Public Order Act 1986 Obscene Publications Act 1959 Computer Misuse Act 1990 The Technology Mobile Phones are used for much more than talking and texting, including downloading and forwarding pictures and film clips, checking e mail, accessing the internet and listening to music. The wide range of activities phones are used for, coupled with the phone s role in managing social networks, makes the phone a powerful and important tool. As well as being able to store music, take photos and video and send these to other phones, people can also share this content with other phones via short range wireless connections, such as blue tooth. Mobiles have been used to cyber bully in a number of ways: making offensive calls; sending offensive text messages; taking and sharing humiliating images; videoing and sharing acts of bullying and assault via camera phone (sometimes misleadingly called Happy Slapping ). Content can be posted on line or sent from phone to phone, or shared using a short-range wireless device, bypassing the phone network altogether. Instant Messenger (IM)/Skype/Facetime are applications that allows people to talk in real time (i.e. live) with other people on a pre-selected friend/buddy list. IM programmes usually require you to download the application to your computer, although there are some web based services available which do not need installing. IM programmes let you see which of your contacts are online when you are, and let you chat using text while you are using your computer. Like social networking sites, IM services work between a network

4 of people who have signed up to the same service and given each other permission to see and talk to each other when they are online. Unlike chat rooms which are typically public and open to anyone signed up to the chat service, IM is more private, usually taking place between two people. Windows Live Messenger is a popular IM programme. Voice Over Internet Protocols (VOIP) are becoming increasingly popular since they offer unlimited free phone calls anywhere in the world, using an internet connected computer and microphone. Again, calls only take place between two people who have downloaded the same application. Some instant messenger products can hold up to 600 buddies or contacts. Bullies can use IM to send offensive messages or content to other users. People can also hack into IM accounts and send offensive messages to contacts. Chat Rooms and Message Boards Typically chat rooms are thematically organised around interest, age and location. Chat rooms allow groups of people from across the world to hold text (and sometimes voice) conversations in real time. Public chat rooms can be populated by anyone, since accounts usually only require an address to verify a user s identity. Most chat rooms do not carry age verification; therefore children can visit chat rooms of an adult nature. People can behave inappropriately or abusively. The nature of chat room exchanges tend to be less inhibited than when people meet in the real world for the first time and people can be persuaded to give out too much personal information and contact details. Offensive or threatening messages can be sent, without the target necessarily knowing who they are from. Groups may ostracise and ignore individuals. is now an essential part of most people s working lives. accounts are provided by organisations, broadband providers or other internet companies. can be used to send inappropriate images and to forward private information. Computer viruses and spam are common hazards. Web-based can also be used by people wanting to remain anonymous in order to send malicious or offensive mail. People can send bullying or threatening messages via , or repeatedly send unwanted messages. Unsuitable images can be forwarded inappropriately. Webcams are small digital cameras which work with computers. They can be used to record photographs or video, which can then be posted on the internet or forwarded. Most commonly they are used to see someone that you are talking to online. People can be persuaded or threatened into doing things on a webcam that they might not have otherwise done. Once someone else has the content, they are at risk of being further manipulated or threatened. Social Network Sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Bebo let users create their own homepages, set up blogs and add friends. Social network sites typically allow users to set up a profile page, listing their interest and other details, and they enable contact with other users. Many focus on internet or services. They may also provide blogging or other website creation tools. Many people view the social network site they use as the hub of their online activity and will spend a lot of time on their pages. Profiles and blogs may contain a lot of detailed and personal information about themselves and their friends. This can be misused by bullies to gain information about an individual, their interests and tastes as well as their location or contact details. Many people mistakenly view publicly available sites as private and personal places, and post photographs for their immediate friends which may be inappropriate or embarrassing in other contexts. Sites which are not made private or registered as belonging to an over 18 year old, are easy to search for and may be indexed and cached by search engines such as Google. Social network sites can be abused in a number of ways. Most allow comments to be left (although some sites enable users to review/approve content before it is shown), and offensive comments may be posted. People might use their own sites to spread rumours or make unpleasant comments about other people, or post humiliating images or video of them. Fake profiles are also fairly common, and these might be used to pretend to be someone else in order to bully, harass or get them into trouble.

5 Guidance on Dealing with Bullying and Harassment by Electronic Means Use the Dignity at Work Policy and Procedures Bullying or harassment via electronic means (for example, via , social networking sites, the Web and mobile phones) is covered by the University s Dignity at Work Policy and Procedure ( humanresources). If you are experiencing unfair treatment of this nature, the same procedure should be followed as for other forms of harassment. The Equality Team s web page has further information, including what you can do and where you can get confidential help ( What additional action could you take? It is important that you save any evidence of harassment/bullying that has taken place. For example, you could take screen shots of the offending posts or images and save s. You could also consider the following (where appropriate): Blocking or banning the user from contacting you Ensuring any personal contact details available on the web are made private, or only accessible to people you trust Follow the University guidelines to keep yourself safe on social networking sites, (see page 9 of this guidance). All UK Mobile operators have nuisance call centres set up and/or procedures in place to deal with such instances. You should acquaint yourself with your providers services in this area. What can be done? 1 When University computing facilities have been used? If a student or member of staff is using the University s computer facilities to harass another member of the University (staff or student), a record of this is likely to be found on the IT servers. Confidential server log files record which sites users have visited and when, and also keep records of when s have been sent or received and sometimes their content. This applies whether the website is hosted by the university or is an external website. Complaints can be investigated under the Dignity at Work Policy, the Disciplinary Procedures or Grievance procedures or the Student Complaint procedures. 2 When the harassment/bullying is external to the University? If harassment has taken place using equipment that is not part of the University system for both the sender and the recipient, it is much harder for the University to gather evidence. Internet service providers have complaints procedures which can be followed, but will generally only provide data to the police. However, it is still possible for IT Services to take action to protect you, such as blocking s from external addresses or providing advice on how you could get an offensive posting on a social networking site removed. The University has a duty of care towards students and staff, and will take action, including disciplinary action if necessary, whether the harassment /bullying is taking place using university equipment or not. It is important that if you are being harassed/bullied in any way, that you seek help and support so that the effective action can be taken. The University has a number of Dignity at Work Advisors who you can speak to in confidence about such issues. Their details can be found at

6 Guidelines for Making the Most of Social Networking Sites Facebook, Friends Reunited and LinkedIn are all examples of social networking sites. They re a great way to chat with friends, family and colleagues or meet people with similar interests. The down side is that your personal details could be seen by anyone, so it s important to remember these points of cyber safety: 1 Restrict access to your profile page to people you know and trust; this reduces the risk of identity theft or stalking. 2 It could be easier than you think for prospective employers to see your profile, however well protected it is. Many employers do look at these sites, so make sure you are happy that your content is suitable for your family, employers and casual acquaintances to see. 3 Be as careful as you can when you chat online about your studies, work, personal life or social events as you would when talking to a stranger. Your posts on newsgroups and online communities may be in the public domain in archives where they can be found years later. 4 Only make comments about a named individual that would be acceptable face to face. Laws on bullying, stalking and defamation can apply online and the penalties can be severe. 5 Your photographs can be viewed, searched or copied unless you protect them. If you don t protect them straight away, copies may be held on archives indefinitely. 6 If you display photos of other people, only add their names if they ve given permission they may not want their image to be easy to find. 7 Copyright laws apply online. If you use content that you didn t create yourself, remember to get permission. 8 Take care when discussing details of your whereabouts you may wish to keep private where you are planning to go and when you will not be at home. 9 Use a different password from the one you use at the university or for online banking. 10 If you use a site which asks you to choose an alias, you can maintain your privacy by making sure that it isn t associated with your real name or University address. Useful Links StopText bully a website dedicated to mobile phone bullying, contains advice for young people, including how to contact your operator Chatdanger a website that informs about the potential dangers online (including bullying) and advice about how to stay safe while chatting Digizen Digizen focuses on responsible use of the internet. Digital citizenship is about building safe spaces and communities, and using online presence to grow and shape your world in a safe, creative way Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre provides information and advice for online safety Respectme offers practical advice and guidance for adults on addressing bullying behaviour

7 Review This guidance has been screened to determine its impact on groups which are protected by law using the University s Equality Impact Assessment process. This guidance will be reviewed in two years, or earlier if legislative requirements change. Last Date of Review: February AT

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