The Troll in the classroom

E-safety for schools is about more than safeguarding the pupils


E-safety Teachers BulliedTeachers are facing a growth of incidents of online abuse, including name-calling, personal insults, sexual smears and even threats of violence from both students and their parents.

In the past, the most abuse that teachers could expect was maybe a bit of cheeky back chat, which would be quickly dealt with, with nothing much more than a stern word and a detention and if parents asked the child why he/she had been detained then their reaction would be along the lines of “Good! I hope you learn your lesson and don’t do it again?”

These days, however, there has been a quantum leap in the attitude to teachers by some parents and, digital technology, along with all the positive opportunities it offers, has provided these parents with a sinister outlet to vent their anger when they find out that their ‘pride–and-joy’ has been reprimanded (nearly always wrongly, in their eyes) for some misdemeanour.

Increasingly, teachers are having to endure online abuse from not only students, but their respective parents as well. This growing abuse includes personal insults, accusations of paedophilia or of having sex with students, as well as racist, sexist and homophobic remarks and threats of violence towards teaching staff.

Incidents include a parent informing a teacher on social media that they were “rubbish” and that she was a “bitch” who attempted to kill their daughter by making her do P.E. and not allowing her to use her inhaler – an accusation that the teacher vehemently denied.

Another member of staff, who was heavily pregnant at the time, received vile comments such as “I hope she gets cancer” and “ugly [expletive] bitch”. She also had an abusive Facebook account established in her name. Other teaching staff described how pictures, which have been taken of them in the classroom, without their knowledge were uploaded and then commented on in a flurry of expletive-laden insults.

Now, some may say, “Well, it’s just kids being mischievous; teachers should have a ‘thick skin’ and be used to this sort of behaviour”. But, in reality, as one teacher experienced, who would put up with being sent sexually explicit abusive messages over a prolonged period of nine months? I would hazard a guess, not many!

But surely, don’t teachers report these instances to their senior management team?

Yes, they do but, as the unions report, in an educational world ruled by league tables and Ofsted ratings, schools and head teachers are reluctant to get involved because they don’t want to annoy parents and risk the reputation of their school.

In a survey conducted by the teaching union, the NASUWT, it reported that 60% of 1500 respondents had suffered abusive comments on social media sites by students and parents in comparison to just 21% in 2014. Worryingly, this rise appeared to be entirely attributable to an increase in the number of parents posting abusive remarks.

As a consequence of this problem, coupled with a myriad of other pressing issues within the teaching profession, research in ‘The Independent’ in early April 2015, reported that around 40% of teachers quit within their first year when the harsh realities of life in the classroom become too much.

The issue of the online abuse of teachers is a very real problem that, if not dealt with urgently, will only get worse and potentially contribute to the growing crisis within the teaching profession, but, if it is to have any chance of success, it will require a cohesive plan and the collaboration of stakeholders from education, Government and the social media industry.

If you would like to share your experience on this topic, please use the comments section below.

Written by Steve Gresty on May 13, 2015 08:36

Teachers Suspended for Misuse of Social Media

Suspended Teachers NewsThe Independent this week reported that the number of teachers being suspended from the profession due to the misuse of social media had doubled in the last year. According to figures from the National College of Training and Leadership, 17% of the disciplinary hearings held last year stemmed from complaints about the use of social media sites.

The Department of Education urge teachers not to ‘friend’ pupils as part of their cyber bullying guidelines – protecting the teacher as well as the pupil. But is it really that simple?

Social networking can be useful as a tool for collaborative planning, sharing resources, providing news and updates to pupils and parents, helping with homework and project assignments, promoting school and class achievement, recording and archiving lesson content for revision and keeping up to date with the latest pedagogy. The format also appeals to students and is easy to access for parents and teachers.

Having clear boundaries when using social media as an educational tool can help protect the pupil, teacher and school. Setting clear usage policies and having school accounts is the first logical step to avoiding potentially damaging situations. However, personal accounts present a different set of risks.

By having a personal social media account, teachers can open themselves up to abuse and sometimes, despite a teacher using social media completely appropriately, things can go wrong. In one case, a teacher was friends with various parents known to them prior to accepting a position with the school. After a disagreement regarding a pupil’s education, one parent decided to copy every conversation, photograph and contact from the teacher’s Facebook profile onto a website which defamed both the school and the teacher. There was nothing remotely inappropriate on the Facebook profile, but the actions of the parent nevertheless caused great distress.

While these cases sometimes reach the news, it’s fair to say that the greater proportion of headlines in relation to teachers and misuse of social media are those where the teacher has deliberately used it to make contact with a pupil. These cases highlight a different problem, not simply that of inappropriate use of social media, but inappropriate behaviour by the teacher. However, with current technology, social media has made the contact easier to establish, and therefore become part of the problem. Simply ‘not friending pupils’ isn’t enough to prevent these situations - those determined to make contact could just find different ways to communicate.

Fortunately, these stories are the exception and while the headlines will continue to appear about social media going wrong, schools shouldn’t steer clear to protect their pupils and staff. There certainly is scope to appeal to students and parents, and also clear benefits are seen when social networking is used as a delivery method for school and teaching based information. An appropriate professional approach and having clear guidelines is the key to creating a responsible social media climate for teachers.

Further information can be found in our 'What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Social Media' report, which is available to all E-safety Support members and can be downloaded from your dashboard. If you are not an E-safety Support member, join free here.

If you have had an experience (good or bad) on social media that you would like to share with other teachers to help them use social media effectively, please use the comments section below.

Written by E-safety Support on November 27, 2014 12:20

Turning pupils into teachers

In recent months we have heard lots of news stories about the perils of the Internet, and how teachers and parents must be educating pupils in the do’s and don’ts of online activity, but are we forgetting one obvious group of educators?

As young people, we all took more notice of our friends than our parents and teachers at one time or another, so it would make sense to utilise this valuable peer group when it comes to e-safety too.

Ofsted recognise the power of peer mentoring and have included this as a feature of good and outstanding practice in their ‘Inspecting e-safety in schools’ briefing document.

Easier said than done!

There are one or two ways that this could begin in the classroom. By encouraging students to create their own resources that can be shared with younger pupils is one option. Or perhaps, involving students in the development of the school e-safety policy, giving them some responsibility for spreading good practice.

Outside of the classroom, why not follow the example of the Digital Leaders group from St Wilfrid’s School, who are not only interest in all things IT, but are also socially active students, with influence within their peer groups.

Without wishing to state the obvious, we can also learn a thing or two from the younger generation ourselves. No-one knows the latest apps being used by young people better than they do, so ask. Then check out the apps yourself and have a class discussion about them. They will doubtlessly know more than you, but it's ok to explore the pro’s and con’s together.

If your school has taken the bold step of treating your students as leaders and helped them to develop their own e-safety teaching resources, you may want to consider entering the Youth Manifesto Competition. This is an EU initiative to encourage shared good practice in e-safety education and learning. Find out more at www.youthmanifesto.eu/competition.

To help others learn from your students, why not let us know which apps are popular in your school by using the comments section below. We can share your thoughts with fellow teachers and all learn from the digital generation.

Written by E-safety Support on July 15, 2014 16:07


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