Government minister addresses Childnet cyberbullying conference

Posted on 22 November 2007

KKevin Brennan MP - Parliamentary Under Secretary for Children, Young People and Families joined 140 guests at the National Cyberbullying Conference organized by Childnet international and the Department for Children Schools and Families. This second national conference looking at Cyberbullying was held at the Emirates Football Stadium conference centre in North London and delegates included representatives from schools, charities, Local Authorities, Local Children’s Safeguarding Boards as well as industry and academia.

Using the latest in interactive voting and tablet PC systems, the delegates were able to work with each other, challenge and engage with speakers and young people in reviewing how the recently published Childnet guidance on cyberbullying could best be implemented in schools.

Mr Brennan in his key note speech acknowledged the excellent work undertaken by Childnet in working with the Cyberbullying Task Force to draw up and publish the guidance for schools on how to both prevent and respond to the menace of cyberbullying. He stressed the Government’s commitment to helping schools enact the guidance with creative initiatives including the recently announced £3m peer-mentoring pilot programme to help prevent young people from being bullied and to support those who are bullied in schools. Mr Brennan also welcomed the commission from the DCSF to enable Childnet’s cyberbullying prevention film "Let’s Fight It Together" (premiered at the earlier national conference) which will be sent to all schools in a special schools pack early next year.

The conference was opened by Fergus Crow from the National Children's Bureau who set the conference in the context of anti-bullying week. Other speakers included teachers sharing from their experiences of tackling cyberbullying in schools and senior industry representatives from Bebo and Orange outlining the commitment they have to help better protect children using their services.

One of the highlights of the day was the performance of a challenging 15 minute drama created, devised and presented by young people from Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College, in South East London. Working with Childnet over a 4 week period, the 14 students created a unique hard-hitting drama entitled 'Laugh at it … you’re part of it.' The presentation showed a fictional episode of cyberbullying in a school, and focused on the very real effects of bullying on a girl called Jess who had had her photo taken on a mobile phone, and was distraught to discover a manipulated version posted onto the internet.

Childnet is making this drama available for teachers to use in secondary schools and a film showing the process of creating this drama and scenes from the play has already been uploaded onto the Childnet 'Digizen' website www.digizen.org/cyberbullying/students.aspx

Fifteen year old Nyingi who played one of the bullies in the play said,

“When I started getting information about what is really happening I thought whoa, is this really happening today? I never knew how people went into so much depth and their emotions go all over the place. I never thought of it as a big thing until doing this production, it made me realise that there are people out there in this same situation finding it really difficult to handle”.

Hailey one of the bystanders in the play said,

"This play is important. I think if people watch the play they can judge for themselves and I think most people will see what cyberbullying does to people so I hope it changes people’s opinion about cyberbullying. The fact that we use our language makes it so much more real – this is true to how we actually are."

Saffia, who played the target in the play said,

“This was quite a challenging role for me because you end up getting really involved in the character and you think it’s really terrible what is going on. It was good when we were finally acting it and see our work produced.”

Giving children a voice like this through drama shows the tremendous opportunities afforded to schools to use drama and digital media to really allow children to express their opinions, reflect on serious issues and help educate their peers. The Digizen website includes a special competition which Childnet is running to help promote positive examples from children on this topic of cyberbullying – see www.digizen.org/digicentral

For more information on the conference including presentations from speakers see the Cyberbullying conference website livegroup.co.uk/childnet, or contact the Childnet office: [email protected] telephone 0207 639 69697

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