UK Initiative Takes on Cyberbullying

According to a recent UK survey, teenagers can reach a state where it is difficult for them to separate real life from the online world.  Jim Norton, a reporter for the Daily Mail, adds that research has also noted that UK schools may not be doing a thorough job of educating children about the dangers [...]

According to a recent UK survey, teenagers can reach a state where it is difficult for them to separate real life from the online world.  Jim Norton, a reporter for the Daily Mail, adds that research has also noted that UK schools may not be doing a thorough job of educating children about the dangers that can sometimes be encountered online.  Google and Vodafone (a British multinational telecommunications company, headquartered in London) teamed up to commission the survey, which also found that online behavior changes when students begin secondary school.

A campaign called Well Versed has begun in the UK with the goal of  helping teenagers develop techniques which will aid in dealing with online risks.  Labeled an e-safety project for students 13 to 15, Well Versed was devised to drive home the idea that online threats to children are  not being taken seriously.  In the UK, calls from parents to Childline, a part of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, about cyber-bullying have risen 87% from last year.  According to the NSPCC,  38% of young people in Britain have experienced cyberbullying.  Kidscape reports that after assessing the online activities of  2,300 children aged 11 – 18 across the UK, 45% stated that they were happier online than they were  in their real lives.

Google and Livity partnered to launch the Well Versed initiative in April of this year.  A UK celebrity to the teen market, YouTube star KickThePJ, with 500,000 YouTube followers under his belt,  is the frontperson.  Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith, writing for Marketing Magazine, Parent Zone will handle the outreach activity.

The campaign endeavors to recruit students nationwide to add their own short videos to the Well Versed microsite.  The clips will be used in a mash-up premiering this summer at Google headquarters.  The three main issues the campaign is trying to emphasize are:

  • The move from primary school to secondary school is a key milestone for change in digital behavior for teens
  • Older teenagers are glad to draw on their own experiences in order to help younger children
  • Advice from peers resonates more with youngsters than advice from adults.
The Well-Versed site itself is filled with teen-savvy information and enthusiastic calls to action.  It suggests organizations that can help a young person who is being bullied; internet tools and tips;and sample scenarios that illustrate cyber danger.
There are no specific laws concerning cyberbullying in the UK, however, there are existing laws that can be applied to this burgeoning dilemma.  The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union are implementing reforms to the EU Data Legislation this year.  Agreements have been formed between the European Commission and the world’s social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to ensure the protection of children online.  Nearly every state in the US has passed laws and legislation addressing cyberbullying and harassment via electronic communications.

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