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USI presented, passed and promoted its new Cyberbullying Policy at USI Congress 2013 in Ballinasloe.  You can read it here.

Combating Cyberbullying in Third Level

About USI

“The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) fights to protect and strives to enhance the student experience. USI is the sole national representative body for students in Ireland with over 250,000 members across 30 colleges. Throughout our history, USI has worked relentlessly in the pursuit of student rights in all areas and raising awareness in all areas of the student experience”.

 Objectives of the Union of Students’ in Ireland:

  1. An education and training system open to all, irrespective of any consideration, including consideration of national origin, ethnic background, age, ability, sex, sexuality, creed, political beliefs or economic circumstances, so that each individual can realize their full potential.
  2. An education and training system which truly serves the interest of the people of Ireland.
  3. The right of students to a decent standard of living including the right to adequate financial support, proper housing and future prospects of employment in Ireland.
  4. The defense and promotion of all democratic and human rights.
  5. The provision of student services for the benefit of the membership on the principle that control of student service should lie with the membership.
  6. To represent the interests of the students if Ireland at international level.

 

Background of the policy

With increasing use of social media there are more risks for young people to become targets, victims or even aggressors of cyber-bullying. Technology’s progression is often equated with the advancement of human societies and in turn has changed the way people interact. This is not always a positive thing as we look at how traditional bullying has evolved into an issue today known as cyber-bullying. While traditional bullying has been studied at length in recent years, it is evident there is currently less known about cyber-bullying (Donegan, 2012). Cyber-bullying has been defined as ‘‘wilful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, phones, and other electronic devices’’ (Hinduja & Patchin, 2010). Donegan also observed that, unlike traditional bullying, cyber-bullying allows the offender to mask his or her identity behind a computer. This anonymity makes it easier for the offender to strike blows against a victim without having to see the victim’s physical response.

According to the National Suicide Research Foundation Ireland, there were approximately 525* suicides in Ireland in 2011. Youth suicide continues to be a significant concern here in Ireland. In 2012, Irish media highlighted a number of cases where Irish teenagers died by suicide in what is suspected as possible results of cyber-bullying. Following key objectives of USI’s Mental Health Strategy 2010-2013 ‘Student Lives, Minds & Wellbeing’ it is imperative that USI keeps suicide prevention as a key objective and aims to make “college communities safe and suicide aware for all students”.  Although USI welcomes the introduction of the ‘Action Plan On Bullying’ – Report of the Anti-Bullying Working Group to the Minister for Education and Skills, USI notes with concern the exclusion of Third level students.  USI also recognises various policies in Higher Education Institutions across Ireland in which bullying and harassment falls under e.g. Trinity College Dublin’s Respect & Dignity Policy, however, it is noted that there is no mention of cyber-bullying in most of these policies. USI recognises the need for an introduction or inclusion of cyber-bullying in such policies. There needs to be awareness and education among young people in relation to how the words which they say online can have both positive and negative impacts towards, not only themselves, but also to other people around them.  Young people need to be encouraged to think before they type, and to ask for help and respond wisely.

* Provisional data – figure subject to future revision

Definitions

Bullying is repeated aggression, verbal, psychological or physical conduct by an individual or group against others. Bullying is always wrong and is unacceptable behaviour which should never be overlooked or ignored (Get With It, 2012).

 Cyberbullying refers to bullying which is carried out using the internet, mobile phone or other technological devices. Cyberbullying generally takes a psychological rather than physical form but is often part of a wider pattern of ‘traditional’ bullying. It can take the form of exclusion, defamation, intimidation, impersonation or sending nasty or threatening messages, emails, photos or video clips; silent phone calls; putting up nasty posts or pictures on a message board, website or chat room; saying hurtful things in a chat room; pretending to be someone else in a chat room or message board or text message and saying hurtful things; or accessing someone’s accounts to make trouble for them (Get With It, 2012).

 

Purpose of the policy

This policy outlines the importance of educating students and the need to raise awareness on the issues of cyber-bullying. Though Cyber-bullying and its affects have only come to the forefront in the national conversation recently, it is evident this has been an issue affecting the youth of Ireland for some years. Furthermore, it advocates the need for policy on cyberbullying at a local level by Students’ Unions and Higher Education Institutions.

 USI Cyber Bullying Charter:

 What behaviour you expect online

  •  To be treated with respect and consideration.
  • To be supported and helped should you need it
  • Not to be scammed, hacked or have personal details shared without your permission

What behaviour is expected of you online

  • That you treat others with respect and consideration
  • That you are mindful of the human behind the computer
  • To support those who need it as you would do in ‘real life’

 

Action Points of policy:

Training, Awareness and Education:

Aims:

To assist local Students’ Union Officers in their work on raising awareness of cyber-bullying and with students who are victims of cyber bullying.

To provide information about cyber-bullying that educates students to think before they type and to intervene if they see a peer being victimised on the internet.

Actions:

USI will:

  • Ensure a training module is provided for all Students’ Union Officers on cyber-bullying.
  • Assist SU Officers in investigating the possibility of working together to provide training on cyber-bullying to staff and class representatives.
  • Co-ordinate an online cyber-bullying campaign, targeted at third level students and to continuously build on it.
  • Include information and resources on the identification, prevention, response and reporting of cyber-bullying.
  • Work closely with a range of youth organisations that are working on this topic and build on existing partnerships.
  • Survey third level students on the instances and affects of cyber-bullying and to present the results to Minister for Education and the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications in relation to abuse of social media and cyberbullying.

Local Policy:

Aim: To ensure Students’ Unions across the country have a cyber-bullying policy for instances when a students will bring a case to their Students’ Union attention.

Actions:

USI will:

  • Support Member Organisations (MOs) in developing a cyber-bullying policy for their Union.
  • To provide support and guidance to MOs to bring said policy to their Governing Authority for adoption and to add on to existing policies covering bullying and harassment.

Responsibility for the Cyberbullying Policy

Unless otherwise stated, USI Officer Board is responsible for the implementation of the USI Cyber Bullying Policy. The USI Welfare Officer shall provide any support needed by MOs to implement their own Cyberbullying policies.

This policy will be reviewed at the end of each academic year by USI Officer Board and any changes will be subject to approval by National Council.

 

References:

  1. ‘Action Plan On Bullying’ – Report of the Anti-Bullying Working Group to the Minister for Education and Skills (2013) Available at:  http://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Education-Reports/Action-Plan-On-Bullying-2013.pdf
  2. Donegan, Richard. (2012)  Bullying and Cyberbullying: History, Statistics, Law, Prevention and Analysis. The Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, 3(1), 33-42.
  3. ‘Get With It – A Guide to Cyberbullying’. A joint initiative by the Office for Internet Safety, O2, Barnardos and the National Centre for Technology in Education (2012)
  4. National Suicide Research Foundation Ireland – Suicides in Republic of Ireland from 2001-2011. Available at: http://www.nsrf.ie/cms/?q=node/36
  5. Sameer Hinduja & Justin W. Patchin, (2010), Cyberbullying: Identification, Prevention, and Response. Available at: http://www.cyberbullying.us/Cyberbullying_Identification_Prevention_Response_Fact_Sheet.pdf
  6. Trinity College Dublin – Respect & Dignity Policy Available at: http://www.tcd.ie/about/policies/respect.php
  7. Murphy et al. (2011) USI Mental Health Strategy 2010-2013 – ‘Student Lives, Minds & Wellbeing’

 

 This policy was adopted by USI Congress, March 2013

 

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