It is only, a few weeks ago, that here in The Netherlands we were all shocked by the tragic news of the suicide of a thirteen year old girl.

She had jumped onto the track in front of her girlfriends when the train approached the station. She left behind a note saying that she just couldn’t go on with her life because she was so terrified by threats and material placed on the internet by her fellow students using social media as an opportunity to bully her and others in their school or local community.

Unfortunately, she was not the first one. Only too often we experience this sad news from other countries in Europe too. Bullying is nothing new, it happened when I was young behind the backs of the teachers and, sometimes, continued even though the teachers were aware of what was happening but had chosen not to act. Don’t we know that closing your eyes to the problem doesn’t mean that it will go away?

Nowadays, for the bully, cyber bullying it is an even easier option or tactic to employ. Why? Because the internet is open for all of us to use – any place, anytime, anywhere. This is the case for both the teachers and the children in their care.

It is not too difficult to follow, to track what’s going on the internet with your students….but, only as long as you know how social media works and if you are familiar with the language. For many of us in schools that’s the very problem we face. Many teachers and school leaders have no social media account or make personal use and/or participate with social media sites. Indeed, it is because many of the staff working in our schools have little active interest in this 21st century communication phenomena. Giving that, increasingly, some children know this and will take advantage of it because they see no restraint in their behaviour and they think their activity is only amongst or restricted to interacting with each other.

If I would have my own class nowadays, I would let my students know that I will monitor them and their behaviour on the internet. However, I fully recognise that therefore you need to understand their language and must know how best to follow them in their use and online behaviour. Furthermore, I think it is time that all our schools should develop programmes to manage online bullying and we should keep this issue up to

date for the safety and welfare of all our students.

I am confident that in doing this, for some of our children we will make school life in 2013 more enjoyable. ESHA has decided to place the issue of bullying as a high priority on the forthcoming 2013 ESHA work programme. By sharing our best practice in this area it is good for all of us to become better informed and it is especially good for our schools and the communities they serve.

ESHA is the European School Heads Association – An association of associations bringing together around 85,000 school leaders across Europe.

Ton Duif, ESHA President

To learn more about ESHA, the projects it is involved in or to sign up for the free ESHA magazine visit www.esha.org

To become more involved with ESHA through AHDS contact Greg Dempster greg@ahds.org.uk