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Bullying on the web. It's a crime.

It is natural to be outraged by some of the graphic images of bullying that are appearing on the web. Camera phones allow young people to record "bullying" attacks and to share them with a worldwide audience, as this report from the USA illustrates.

We thought long and hard before including this news report on our site, containing as it does images of gratuitous violence, but we cannot see any other way of challenging the complacency of those who downplay the impact and dangers of such activities. This is serious stuff. Sooner or later grave injuries or deaths will occur. Violence is, by its very nature, unpredictable. What may have started out as a callous joke will, inevitably, turn into tragedy.

Another reason for highlighting this particular story is because of the strong action police have taken against the young people responsible. In our information sheet on cyber-bullying we encourage teachers to discuss and agree a code of conduct covering the use of technology by students. This should stress the need to educate people to use technology responsibly and, when they do not, it should encourage sensitive and appropriate responses. However, very serious incidents may fall outside the scope of this code. Anyone who misuses the web to injure, humiliate, degrade or threaten another individual commits a crime. Anyone who allows a website to be used in this way aids and abets that crime.

Andrew Mellor
February 2007