The Pew Research Center study, A Majority of Teens Have Experienced Some Form of Cyberbullying, on which Institut Montaigne’s poll is based, also suggests that the risks for children are not randomly scattered: the ones who experience one type of harmful content are also the ones that experience others, both online and offline. Children experiencing cyberbullying are also likely to be those experiencing aggression at home, or visiting self-harm sites, etc. Most children experience little of it but see it happening to others. This bystander effect is important. They are usually aware of who is currently experiencing cyberbullying, and they know that the person is not getting help. In a way, they see firsthand the failure of adults to understand the violence.
Institut Montaigne’s report French Youth: Online and Exposed recommends including a diversity of actors, including parents and educators, to deal with cyber-bullying, as well as establishing a clearly identified "one-stop shop" to assist children and teenagers in need. Are these measures relevant in the UK too?
Schools indeed have a crucial role to play. They are increasingly taking responsibility, but they do too little about shifting the norms of behaviour, compared with delivering simple E-safety messages. So many children have done E-safety sessions, they know what they are supposed to do, yet one third of users still cannot protect their privacy online. This illustrates that schools can be more ambitious in teaching students how the online environment works, so they understand where their comments go, who collects their data, and understand more about the wider functioning of the internet. It is also crucial to manage the school environment online and offline in order to build trust.
Concerning the one-stop shop, in the UK, as in France, there are lots of different places where children can go when they experience cyberbullying. However, none of them have enough reach, except for Childline (a counselling helpline) that everybody knows. Originally, these services targeted offline violence and other problems, but increasingly they address online violence as well. To increase reach, the one-stop-shop is a good idea; however it comes with limitations. For example, if all children have heard of it, they might think that it concerns only extreme cases and therefore not reach for help for milder cases. To this purpose, other platforms are also important. However, in the UK they are all underfunded, and face trouble getting their details known to children. This is where the government could play a role to ensure they are more visible.
Institut Montaigne’s report also recommends auditing social media companies. What role do social media play in contemporary cyberbullying?