As online meanness and cruelty continue to garner global attention, parents, educators, and school officials grow hungrier for new information and guidance. All are looking to formulate and implement strategies and policies that will help protect young people both online and off. A recent report from more than a dozen leading academics from 11 countries offers additional considerations and recommendations.
The group, made up of academics from Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Norway, Portugal, and Sweden, reviewed and scored, over four years, 54 national guidelines on online bullying from 27 countries. The ratings were based on the presence or absence of a range of criteria with the aim of “share[ing] expertise on cyber-bullying in educational settings … moving towards a common set of guidelines applicable in Europe.”
The research-evidence review covered four target groups: young people, parents, schools, and teachers, highlighting strengths and weakness of each of the guidelines, concluding with recommendations. For instance, the authors note that many of the national guidelines noted the need for parents to serve as role models; to speak proactively to their children about online risks, and to monitor children’s use of technology. Many also mentioned that parents need to develop their own technology skills. Yet, far fewer guidelines called on parents to encourage their children to help others, or focused on the importance of working closely with a child’s school, should an issue arise.
For young people, the authors said few national guidelines addressed bullying in online gaming; highlighted the option of reporting online bullying to local authorities, or concentrated on developing leadership and peer skills, such as empathy, to discourage negative behaviors. And, for schools and teachers, the authors said few national guidelines specified what it means to develop a “whole-school” prevention policy; noted the importance of the youth’s peer group, and offered a role to teachers in making and evaluating policies, as well as developing and supplementing their own technology and other skills.
Personally, I was fascinated with the report. More importantly, it confirmed for me that the advice and guidance that we, at Microsoft, are giving to youth, parents, and educators is sound. Indeed, Microsoft has been working to prevent online bullying among youth for more than five years. We develop features and functionality in our products and services, allowing consumers to block bullies and to report abuse. We conduct research, help to raise awareness of the issue, and create resources designed to promote good digital citizenship – responsible and appropriate use of technology. [Read our graphic white paper here: (PDF)].
For more on Microsoft’s work to protect young people from online meanness, check out these resources: brochure, factsheet, PPT presentation, toolkit, and regularly consult our Safety & Security Center for the latest about online safety. “Like” our page on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter. Fostering good digital citizenship is something we all need to do, so join the movement.