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Forres Councillor discusses rise in online bullying with police

By Ali Morrison

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The police are available to give advice to parents who think their child may be being bullied online.
The police are available to give advice to parents who think their child may be being bullied online.

A MORAY Councillor met with police to discuss an increase of social media bullying.

Following complaints of local instances, Cllr Claire Feaver asked Forres Inspector Keli McPhail about the support that police can give affected children and families.

Cllr Feaver said: "Anyone can contact the police regarding social media activity that they feel is abusive and harmful. The police are very clear about what is abusive and therefore something they can pursue.

"The problem with social media is that often it is hurtful comments that are posted, there is no law against this. If it is something that is against the law the police can pursue this as with any other offence."

Insp McPhail confirmed the police control room regularly receives calls regarding bullying including threats and assault where there may be social media interaction involved.

She said: "We deal with each case that is reported to us on its own merits and take appropriate action. We are always there to give advice if a child or parents wants to pop in and see us."

Cllr Feaver was told that school staff are unable to do much about the issue.

She said: "If it is done outside of school premises and time, it is not their responsibility. For me, if it is done by school pupils, surely the school should be able to have some influence.

"One of the actions school seems to be very keen on is getting the bully and victim in the same room with each other - that may work for some but for others it is far too confrontational and scary."

Police liaison officer Mark Potter advises pupils on being aware of how to keep safe online, what is acceptable online and how to avoid being part of child sexual exploitation online.

Insp McPhail added: "The schools give the children and parents up-to-date advice on how to keep safe online, for parents to monitor their childs use online and what to do when they feel it has become abusive or threatening.

"There is a wealth of information for parents and children, including Government websites, that encourage safe use of the internet."

Cllr Feaver finished: "One simple solution is to keep off social media and to have a responsible person gate-keep your accounts. I know of families where social media is very open, all the children’s friends know that the parents can see what is being posted and everyone is encouraged just to post positive stuff.

"The only problem that seems then to occur is when someone is told second-hand about what is being posted behind their back and screen prints are taken of the posts."

See https://www.childnet.com/ for more information on safety on the internet.

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