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Community / Concerns raised in council chamber over bullying on social media

THE ISSUE of bullying on social media was raised in the council chamber earlier this week – with a powerful account highlighted of abuse received by a school pupil.

Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament Leighton Anderson provided a story of an anonymous youngster in Shetland who felt the need to change schools after being threatened through social media.

Speaking to Shetland Islands Council’s education and families committee on Monday, he said the pupil received threats online of physical violence at school and at home, but nothing was done by the authorities about it.

Anderson asked what more schools and the council could do to deal with online bullying.

Children services director Helen Budge said she was “vexed” to hear about the story.

She said she will highlight the story with public protection officers.

Budge said people need to feel safe online, and said there needs to be “clear strategies” for young people.

“In the first instance we do have workshops that happen in schools, so we can look at that particular example in more detail and perhaps use that as a case study,” she said.

“In respect to schools and the issue of bullying, and this would be classed as online social bullying that’s something that within children’s services we can also look at.”

Lerwick councillor John Fraser also said the issue was not just reserved to young people, with adults also posting unsavoury comments online.

He said he felt the misuse of social media was a “societal problem”.

Fraser said Shetland was on the whole a welcoming place but that was not always evident online.

The Lerwick member said Facebook pages of local media are places where people like councillors have been targeted by “keyboard warriors” with abusive comments – including himself.

He claimed that moderators of local news organisations’ Facebook accounts “do not take any action at all in order to control that accordingly and allow that to be seen as acceptable behaviour”.

Committee chairman George Smith said social media had both negatives and positives.

“I think it’s quite a complex issue – clearly the schools do have a role to play,” he said.

“We just need to go on social media and we can see some very cruel comments being directed at not just young folk, but right across the piece here, and that’s not an image of Shetland that we would want to associate ourselves with.”