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Keep Up With Technology, Warns Internet Expert

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

With eight out of 10 bullying incidents in schools linked to cyber and text bullying, parents and boards of trustees must keep up with the play, warns an internet safety expert.

NetSafe's education sector manager Richard Beach says cyber and text bullying are the number one issues his organisation deals with, yet many parents - some of whom are trustees - still don't realise the seriousness of the problem.

NetSafe, an independent non-profit organisation, educates children, parents, schools, community groups and businesses about safe, secure and responsible use of information and communication technology.

Mr Beach is speaking about cyber bullying at the annual New Zealand School Trustees Association conference being held at the Christchurch Convention Centre from July 18-20.

It's a subject Mr Beach says all parents, teachers and boards of trustees should do their homework on.

"It's something that is taking place probably in every school in the country. We do a lot of work with school counsellors and one told me most bullying incidents they deal with involves some sort of cyber or text bullying, we're talking about 70-80 percent."

Mr Beach says cyber bullying has even been a contributing factor in a small number of cases in New Zealand where young people have completed suicide.

"Technology has made it easier for bullies. It's not face to face so it's easier to set up a website or to send a text, but it's also quite insidious in that it's easy for a good person to become a bully simply by receiving a nasty text and forwarding it on or going on to the website and adding comments. It's too easy to be a cyber bully and bystanders can become bullies without even realising it."

For that reason Mr Beach says teaching staff must undergo professional development to better understand the technology they are using.

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2/Keep with technology MR

Because boards of trustees set policies on how ICT is used in schools, he says trustees must also understand how technology is used and the role it has in people's lives.

"A lot of board members are parents themselves so they need to ask their own children about the technology, how it's being used, why certain websites are popular, so that they get a good understanding about what's going on in ICT in their children's lives," says Mr Beach.

"Parents don't talk to their children enough about technology and what they're doing with it. Part of it is because parents just don't understand how this technology works and why it's used so often.

"A lot of parents didn't have that sort of technology when they were growing up themselves. It would be a disservice to say that all parents are in a space where they don't understand this technology, because a lot of parents are quite technology savvy, but they don't necessarily understand how young people are using the technology just as part of their social development, it's their social space, it's where they hang out."

Mr Beach says the biggest message to parents is to engage with their children about what they're doing online. That way if issues do arise, hopefully their child will feel comfortable in coming to them to talk about it.

Other topics to be covered at the NZSTA conference include student discipline issues confronting schools in 2008 and issues that arise from complaints to the Ombudsmen's Office by parents or students about board of trustees' disciplinary decisions.

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