Can the Panic Button Combat Online Bullying?

One fifth of children say they do not know how to protect themselves against online bullying.

These shocking results of a survey conducted by the Anti-Bullying Alliance come following a week of discussions by social media sites about the possible installation of an online "panic button".

The button which is now present of Bebo, features as a large graphic which is prominent on each personal profile page, providing quick access to 10 sources of help for children experiencing online bullying.

For example, if a child is being bullied online but does not want to report it to the police, they will be directed to ChildLine.

Jim Gamble, chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), is a strong advocator of the panic button proposal as a safeguard to children's online experience. He says that it is, "beyond logic" that facebook and twitter should also install this tool on their sites.

However Facebook and Myspace have defended their existing safety policies saying that there are links on both sites where users can report bad behaviour, as well as the option to block other users.

"What we are offering is easy to use and is a one-stop shop for all the help available. A lot of children don't want to talk to the police straight away and often don't know the other options. It's free and simple," says the head of Child Protection and Safeguarding at CEOP, Dr Zoe Hilton,. "The button also acts as major deterrent to those who may be looking to target children."

CEOP says the button, which is currently live on Microsoft's MSN chat and several school websites, has already received 10,000 clicks a month and has resulted in 5,000 criminal investigations.

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