Saasyan Blog

Are you a Bystander, or an Upstander?

Cyberbullying; “deliberate and repeated harm inflicted through the use of online technology”, is now the second most common form of bullying in Australia.

In Australian schools, the problem is endemic. Approximately 20% of school students reported experiencing online bullying in any one year. Furthermore, more than 80% of students who were bullied online reported being bullied in person. Pertinent to note that these statistics are based on the known instances of Cyberbullying. Children typically under-report instances of bullying and cyberbullying. The actual figures are certainly and indubitably higher.

Bullying has the potency to ill-affect every part of a young person’s life, including relationships with friends and family. It can affect a person’s confidence and performance at school, at home, in sport and in other activities. Young people who are bullied are also more susceptible to develop anxiety and depression.

Bullying traditionally had obvious visible signs. Shouting, beatings, bruises, witnesses etc. Cyber bullying does not come bundled with the overt and the obvious signs. Most of the behaviour takes place behind a digital screen. It consequents into emotional harm and widespread notoriety owing to the nature of social media.

The ‘usual suspects’ who perpetrate ‘in-person’ bullying may (or not) be responsible for cyber bullying. A wider and different range of personalities are drawn into online misbehaviour. Since it is not as public an attack as is in the physical world, cyber bullying offers a kind of protection to the perpetrator – even anonymity.

Identifying cyberbullying attacks or online harassment directed towards children in schools is difficult to detect and as such, harder to combat. It is often lumped in the ‘not easy to assess’ and as such in the ‘too hard’ basket. Resultantly, educators and school administration can sometimes be guilty of neglecting Cyberbullying or bypassing the issue.

Several schools in Australia have taken the bold step to ban mobile phone use in school hours. On the surface, this appears to tackle the issue head-on: young people are bullying others or coming to harm, while accessing apps and websites from their mobile phones. Surely, banning the phones removes the issue.

When we consider the problem more deeply, we can see that banning phones simply shifts the problem out of sight. Do our students still go online? And do they do so multiple times a day? Probably. Are they likely to hide their phones and conceal their use? Quite likely. And does the bullying issue disappear? Definitely not.

In fact, a move such as banning phones can potentially increase the risk of harm to children. With phones banned from school, should a child experience online bullying, they will almost certainly not report it as they are bypassing school policy by simply using a phone on school grounds. This is what a focus on ‘policing’ does: it creates more offenders, and reduces the chance of schools to have a positive impact.

So, how should schools react to the increased issue of online bullying?

Research shows that the largest and most powerful group in a bullying situation is the bystander, yet 70% of Australians do nothing to help when they observe bullying.

Two things need to happen for this to change:

  1. Schools must remain aware of cyber bullying being perpetrated by or on their students;
  2. Bystanders need to transition, to becoming “Upstanders”.

In a day and age of advanced technology, such as next-generation firewalls and advanced web filtering and reporting tools, there is no excuse for schools to remain unaware of online bullying.

Our own product, Saasyan Assure, allows pastoral care and other School staff to be proactively notified when certain keywords are used by children or certain behaviours are detected online.

Detection combined with action is an excellent recipe for saving lives. For example, children who have searched keywords related to suicide and self-harm would have gone undetected without the proactive reporting in Assure – and they would have gone unhelped without the response of an ‘Upstanding’ educator.

And who can be an Upstander? Parents, teachers, pastoral care staff, school administration, leadership and even other students. Many young people these days are standing up and publicly saying ‘no’ to online bullying, calling themselves out on social media as a ‘positive influencer’. Building a culture where this attitude is the norm sustainably prevents online bullying. Education and encouragement around good ‘digital citizenship’ goes a long way to sorting cyberbullying proactively, rather than reactively.

And do Upstanders need to do anything extraordinary? Do they need to front up to bullies? Do they need to come up with solutions and mediation? Not necessarily.

The key objective of an Upstander is to help students report bullying. When a child is bullied and they confide in a friend, or turn to an adult for help, all they want is for the bullying to stop. They are usually not seeking retaliation or revenge: they often don’t even want the person doing the bullying to get in trouble. They simply want the bullying to end. Parents, educators, and other adults tasked with responding to bullying incidents need to keep this in mind, and respond in a way that stops the bullying.

The biggest issue in combating online bullying is turning Bystanders into Upstanders. Technology is not the problem: apathy is the roadblock.

Become an Upstander, intervene when you have the opportunity, and save lives.



Announcing Saasyan® Assure V3.0

Proud to announce Saasyan® Assure can now leverage the power of Palo Alto Networks® Next Generation Firewalls to intercept Facebook Chat, Google Hangouts, Yahoo! Messenger, Twitter and Snapchat traffic to detect, alert and report on potentially dangerous communication amongst students. One more feature to help schools better fulfil their duty of care obligations vis-a-vis their students’ cyber welfare.

Top 5 Cyber-Welfare Problems in Education and How to Resolve Them

The concept of “smart” is seeping into all aspects of society, and now, it’s powering our classrooms. Education in Australia has undergone a massive shift over the past ten years. It has evolved from a manual learning environment to a “smarter” digital learning space powered by smart devices such as tablets, mobile phones, and smart whiteboards.

This trend has engineered the creation of “Smart Schools”, which is the next step in the integration of education and technology. Smart schools connect educators and students to limitless learning possibilities on the digital sphere.

Smart schools = smarter tech responsibility

In the creation of Smart Schools, we are witnessing new avenues of learning opening up in the digital realm. However, this new educational sphere demands the assurance of school and student cyber-safety, where new security and safety threats can emerge. This is complicated by the onset of BYOD, or ‘bring your own device’ capabilities, where students are allowed to use their own smart devices in their lessons and learning.

There are pros and cons in enabling BYOD functionality in schools, along with a host of other issues that arise out of digitizing manual learning processes. Primarily, it’s entrusting students with access to a wide range of media, including “fun” content outside of education.

For instance, let’s consider social media resources such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and Tumblr. These are some of the biggest academic distractions students indulge in today. Such sites are easily accessible via students’ own devices, which means that schools are tasked with the additional responsibility of ensuring that social media does not distract from academic work. Furthermore, when students bring their own devices and connect them to the school’s wireless network, there is the risk of a virus worming its way into the school’s IT network. These problems and others should be proactively managed by the school IT department, with measures in place to respond in case of network shut-downs or other issues. Furthermore, education officials must be empowered with the ability to control what level of access is provided to teachers and students.

Fortunately, there are preventive measures that schools can take to protect the institution and its students when acclimating to the “smart school” world. Thanks to the advent of advanced protective digital technology, schools can ensure that ensure that:

  1. Students are able to only access safe, appropriate content relevant to education and learning.
  2. Student-onboarded devices do not threaten the security of the school’s IT network.
  3. School decision-makers are empowered with full access privileges and can grant or revoke access.
  4. School decision-makers can access full student usage information and analytics for better business planning.
  5. School decision-makers receive instant alerts and stay on top of unusual student web activity the moment it happens.

How can I protect my students and IT network in cyberspace?
There are a plethora of cyber-security options that provide premium services to ensure school network safety and security. Some features that you might want to check on your list should include the following:

Schools are entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring student safety in all aspects whilst on school property, and this responsibility now includes cyber-welfare. Your chosen software suite should have appropriate compliance controls to ensure that you are better able to fulfil your care of duty obligations as an educational institution.
Educators and other school officials should be empowered with the ability to check and track students’ web activity independently of the IT department. Does your firewall/web filter provider ensure this?
Receive instant notifications when your students access inappropriate content. The product must be able to easily catch red flags and notify educators and IT personnel immediately.
Record student usage trends and conduct analysis on web access trends over an annual period. Ensure compliant digital citizenship practices across the board and reward responsible student cyber behaviour.
As educators, you have the oversight to allow temporary access to certain content at your discretion. Perhaps the content is graphic, yet informative for upper-class students to use for final projects. Your software provider should ensure that you control access all the way.

Key points to remember
At the end of the school day, officials and educators should head home with the knowledge that they’ve created a safe, secure learning environment for students, whilst ensuring the safety and integrity of the school’s IT network. A primary concern is ensuring compliant digital citizen practices, and the right software solution can ensure that your network users are responsible for their usage.

As schools and indeed, the world, becomes more connected on the digital sphere, cyber threats also evolve in sophistication. Therefore, educators must exercise their utmost commitment to ensuring that our youth are free to enjoy a safe, carefully monitored online experience whilst on school property.

If you would like more information on how to fully ensure your students’ and school’s cyber-welfare, get in touch with us today.

Saasyan® is now a Palo Alto Networks® NextWave Technology Partner

We are pleased to announce that Saasyan® is now a Palo Alto Networks® technology partner. Enhancing cyber-welfare in Australian education is what we do best!