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Q&A: Cyberbullying

Q: "My 13-year-old daughter has been cyberbullied, yet now she's been accused of being a cyberbully herself. Is it likely that she could be a victim and a bully?"

A: Educational and child psychologist Dr Shane Gallagher, of Cambridgeshire Educational Psychology Service, has just published research into cyberbullying.

He says: "Cyberbullying is a form of subtle or covert aggression. An increased online knowledge, opportunity and engagement by young people who have been subject to cyberbullying may have provided them with the ammunition and motivation to engage in their own form of retribution against those who target them.

"It's possible that due to the anonymous nature of communication over the internet, young people will engage in retaliatory attacks on each other's character which would lead them to be identified as both a cyberbully and cybervictim.

"To address the issue of cyberbullying, it must be realised that it's not the technology that's at fault, it's the messages. These messages originate in the physical world and as such it's there that any intervention work should be targeted.

"Looking forward, it will be impossible to police technology and negative attitudes or comments. A firm belief around educating young people about positive communication alongside moral and ethical expression is one way of proceeding.

"Young people do benefit from being shown the boundaries of free expression, but it should be made explicitly clear to them that those boundaries are not imaginary, and have reasonable limits."

PA Media