There have been many accounts of the terrible consequences when teenagers cyberbully other teenagers. But teachers also face bullying online. According to the BBC, a study from Plymouth University has found that one-third of teachers say they have been the victims of cyberbullying, with the majority of those claiming online abuse being women.
What’s more, while 72 percent of the abuse came from students towards teachers, the remaining percent came from parents.
The study found that 35 percent of teachers said they had been subjected to online abuse. Researchers used testimony from 377 teaching professionals in an anonymous internet-only survey, with some participants detailing the psychological distress they had felt as a result:
One teacher said: “I eventually had a breakdown in the summer holiday needing an emergency doctor to be called out – as I had become suicidal.
“I had intensive support from the mental health unit via my GP, a new telephone guidance service that really helped me plus medication which was a great help, and still is.”
A teacher also reported being falsely accused of inappropriate behavior with a student:
“I was questioned by the police on one single occasion and released without charge, caution or reprimand… I also ended up in the care of a psychologist to help me deal with the loss of self-worth, depression and the urge to commit suicide,” the teacher said.
While most of the online abuse occurs via chat over social networks, students are increasingly setting up Facebook pages “specifically to abuse teachers.” Students have also posted videos on YouTube of teachers in the classroom with less than kindly commentary. Sites like RateMyTeachers.com can contain abusive comments — indeed, one could say that such rating sites are to some extent inviting abuse, as the sites give students a forum to “air their feelings” about teachers (and professors, at RateMyProfessors.com).
Professor Andy Phippen, the author of the report, said the findings reveal a change in how students and their parents address problems at school:
“It seems to a subset of the population the teacher is no longer viewed as someone who should be supported in developing their child’s education, but a person whom it is acceptable to abuse if they dislike what is happening in the classroom,” said Prof Phippen.
“Clearly some people are viewing social media as a bypass to the traditional routes (head teacher, board of governors) of discussing dissatisfaction with the school,” he added.
The Telegraph says that, in 70 percent of cases, senior administrators offered little recourse and “unions and the police were unable to resolve problems.”
While Phippen’s study is specifically about teachers in the UK, teachers in the US and elsewhere have had to contend with similar issues. The internet, we all know, is a powertool for learning and communicating, but not all that is communicated is positive, to put it lightly. The media has reported many accounts of teachers expressing inappropriate sentiments about students in public online fora and social media sites. Equal attention needs to be displayed towards students and parents using online sites for similar reasons. Teachers needs more backing and support from administrators who need to understand that when such abuse occurs online, it may well be carried over into the classroom in terms of students’ behavior.
Most of all, with the start of the school year right around the corner or even here for many school districts, it’s a good time to start a discussion (online and face to face) about the powers and dangers of online media and about how words can not only hurt; accusations about individuals posted online, whether true or not, can have repercussions in the real world on real people.
Social media and other online sites are here to stay: It’s more than time to educate everyone about using them responsibly and respectfully.
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