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Government stomps on technobullies (again)

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Guidance released by education ministers today has called on schools to do more to stop bullies using the internet and mobile phones to target fellow pupils.

The last set of government intructions on the issue was published in July last year.

Launching the latest crackdown, schools secretary Ed Balls said: "Cyber bullying is a particularly insidious type of bullying as it can follow young people wherever they go, and the anonymity that it seemingly affords the perpetrator can make it even more stressful for the victim." According to the government more than a third of 12 to 15-year-olds have been victim to "cyber-bullying" including stalking, intimidation, threats, and impersonation.

The issue has had plenty of play in mainstream media lately, including a BBC Panaroma special that led to a teachers' union call for YouTube to be shut down over the summer.

The government's response has been developed in consultation with mobile operators, Bebo, MySpace and YouTube. Teachers should contact websites when malicious activity is reported by pupils, the guidance urges. They can demand to see the content of text messages or emails if they get a tip-off and should confiscate pupils' phones if necessary.

Another part of the new campaign will see popular websites for teenagers carry the message "Laugh at it and you're part of it".

Practical advice to children will include not responding to nasty texts or emails, logging and reporting incidents, and the importance of password protection and not giving out personal details over the internet. ®

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