Getting ready for work this week I heard on the news that children are now saying that cyber-bullying is accepted as part of everyday life. Being a parent myself, I understand that you can’t be with your children 24 hours a day to know and see what is happening but it shocks and saddens me to know that nearly 43% of children (http://www.dosomething.org/) have been bullied online with one in four being bullied more than once – a shocking amount of them consider taking their own lives as a result. It is only now considered a serious problem in need of a solution.

Cyber bullying is mainly thought of as a problem affecting young people, but of course it happens in a work context. Back in July, Caroline Criado-Perez became the target of rape threats on Twitter after leading a campaign to put Jane Austen on the £10 note. Cyber bullying ‘at work is becoming as prevalent as non-electronic forms of bullying’ according to a study carried out in 2013 called ‘Punched from the Screen.’

The report found that eight out of ten employees had suffered some form of cyber bullying in the last six months. This could have been receiving an offensive email or text, or being humiliated, ignored or gossiped about online. Between one in seven and one in five people had experienced this kind of bullying on a weekly basis, which is comparable to figures reported for non-electronic bullying, according to the researchers.

So what of the role of the HR professional in helping employee’s to deal with these issues? When employee’s, for example, put their opinions in the public domain on behalf of the organisation – controversial or not – no-one expects rape threats as Caroline Criado-Perez experienced. It is unchartered territory for HR but in some cases it can be considered a criminal offence so the issue does need to be taken seriously. Employers need to be prepared to support and react quickly in these situations. With more and more campaigns and organisations being established to combat cyber bullying there is support and plenty of information available but prevention is always better than cure.

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