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 14:17

Youthworks release results of latest Cybersurvey

The Cybersurvey is an online survey tool being used in different local authority areas to gather information from young people on cyber abuse and e-safety education. The aim is to use a standard questionnaire and develop baseline data, after which the survey can be repeated from time to time. This will help frontline practitioners in these authorities and schools to evaluate interventions and e-safety education and compare responses between areas.

The advantages of the internet, but also the possible dangers, grow with the increased use of smartphones and other devices e.g. tablets.

There have been a number of well publicised issues surrounding cyber bullying, some with tragic consequences affecting children and young people through social media sites.

The results of this survey, together with other data collection will inform ongoing development of our anti-bullying strategy, policy and procedures and training provision.

Here are some of the highlights from the latest survey conducted for Dudley MBC:

When asked if students had come across certain types of websites or content without searching for it

  • 22% have seen sites ‘urging you to be too thin’

  • 23% have seen sites about self-harm or suicide, with girls more likely than boys to say they have ‘come across’ sites like this

  • 28% have come across nude pictures or videos which they did not search for

  • 28% have come across very violent images they did not search for

  • 20% claim to have come across websites promoting racist views

  • 23% have come across websites giving advice they think could be dangerous

  • 12% of people have once or twice come across ‘someone who makes you think they are a young person interested in you, but they turn out to be someone quite different’

  • 18% have come across sites trying to sell you stuff that might be illegal
  • On the subject of cyber bullying, the survey revealed that of those who had been cyber bullied, two thirds did report it, but 34% told nobody. 66% of those who told someone did get help. But the bullying stopped in only 49% of cases, it reduced slightly in 31% of cases and stayed the same for 13% and actually worsened for 8%.

    The survey also explored online risks (eg gambling sites, illegal downloads and personal data security), activities surrounding sexting, and also exposure to homophobic material, along with general media consumption and attitudes to e-safety education.

    These are just a few of the statistics available from the survey. For the full results and also results from other geographical areas, please visit the Youthworks website.

    The Cybersurvey questionnaire was designed by Adrienne Katz and there were 1130 valid responses (47% boys, 53% girls) in the Dudley survey.

    Written by E-safety Support on August 28, 2014 08:00

    Parents need help navigating e-safety issues

    As technology advances at a dizzyingly rapid pace, its ubiquitous nature can’t help but influence and impact on young people’s lives; however, being part of the digital generation, they have an inherent ability to engage with and embrace new innovations with fervour.

    And here lies the problem.

    The intrigue and excitement of discovering and being part of a new digital innovation, whether it be a new computer game or social networking website, blinds the child to the possibility that there may be issues or dangers associated with their participation in the new application. Traditionally, it has been the parents or carers of young people who have been the steadying voice of guidance, to take care riding a bicycle on the road or climbing a tall tree; however, with online attractions some parents find it virtually impossible to keep up with and understand the latest game or website their offspring is ‘hooked up’ to and therefore lack the awareness of the very real risks and dangers that their child could be exposing themselves to.

    Some parents may feel that, because they happen to use sites such as social media they are fully aware of the dangers; however they may act misguidedly, like the mother in Colorado who, in refusing her daughter’s pestering to be allowed to use social media, used an image of her to demonstrate how quickly something can go viral online. Unfortunately, the stunt back-fired and resulted in the mother receiving abuse, along with messages criticising her for using the image of her daughter as an experiment to prove her point.

    Schools, local area learning grid organisations and other educational websites have begun to recognise the problems that parents face with regard to this issue and are steadily putting a variety of measures in place with a view to informing and assisting parents in keeping their children safe online. These measures focus on a broad range of issues such as:

  • recognising the signs if you think child is being cyber-bullied,

  • the need to establish time limits with regard to your child’s online activity,

  • teaching your child about the potential dangers of posting personal details on social networking sites,

  • understanding what ‘sexting’ is and the danger it poses to young people,

  • the importance of checking that the computer games a child is playing, are age-appropriate,

  • how a lack of quality sleep, as a consequence of too much gadget activity, can affect behaviour and impact on a child’s education and achievement,

  • how to use the parental controls that are provided by internet service providers,

  • the issues associated with illegal downloads and file-sharing.
  • There are a number of resources available from E-safety Support that schools can use to boost their communications with parents and therefore provide information and assistance in understanding about social media and new technologies. Resources include online e-safety training for parents.

    In this day and age, it is no longer acceptable for parents to plead ignorance and to simply allow their children to disappear into their bedrooms with their computer, Smartphone or tablet and hope or assume that they are not engaged in any online activity that is either inappropriate or potentially putting themselves or others in danger. In the same way that parents have traditionally guided children in physical world, it is now their responsibility to educate themselves and raise their own awareness regarding the issues and dangers of the virtual world and demonstrate vigilance and provide guidance to their children regarding their online activity and behaviour.

    If you have any hints or tips on how to help parents navigate e-safety issues and would like to share them with other teachers, please let us know by using the comments section below.

    Written by Steve Gresty on May 29, 2014 10:08


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