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Measures that will help to protect our young people from bullying

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: July 04, 2013

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It scares me to think that I had left school before the internet was invented, when mobile phones were non-existent and a tweet was something birds did.

Today's school children have very different challenges to those I faced, and one of them is the increasing level and ease of bullying.

No longer is it confined to within the school gates; the proliferation of social media, text messaging and other forms of electronic communication means that more than a million children per week are the victims of bullying.

Traditionally, dealing with bullies has been the responsibility of the school, but now many feel powerless because so much takes place beyond the gate; it is very difficult for teachers and staff to deal with such bullying as they do not see it happening in the classroom.

Parents can also often feel powerless, being unable to effectively help their own child deal with bullies and the agony they cause.

While many are as careful as they can be about their child's access to social media and electronic communication, it is often simply impossible to keep an eye out all the time.

The worst thing about social networking websites is that anything nasty posted about your child can be seen by lots of their peers, both because it is so public and because the bullies make sure they tell everyone where to find the abuse. MPs have to have a thick skin about that, but children should not have to.

Tragically, the impact can sometimes be devastating and sadly more than 20 children commit suicide each year because of persistent bullying.

The UK appears to do little to prevent this from happening and is far behind the US, Sweden, South Africa and New Zealand – all of whom have strict anti-bullying legislation.

This is why I have supported an amendment to the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill currently progressing through Parliament.

This is following the campaign by the charity BeatBullying, The Sun and families of those who have lost children to introduce Ayden's Law, named after 14-year old Ayden Olsen who tragically took his own life by taking an overdose following a prolonged period of vicious bullying at the hands of a group of pupils at his school.

Nothing can bring Ayden or those like him back to their families, but I hope this is a step in the right direction to stop it happening again.

The Bill changes all types of anti-social behaviour to a civil offence rather than a criminal one. I have supported this amendment so that we can once and for all try to highlight bullying as unacceptable in a civilised society, without giving youngsters a criminal record and instead forcing them into a change of behaviour.

It is the duty of politicians to help look after the vulnerable and our children truly deserve to be protected.

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