A few weeks ago I was talking to a teacher about teachers at risk of becoming victims of online abuse from students. He recounted a story about the recent discovery of a website, set up sometime ago by an anonymous user. It had lurked in the corner of the Internet for some time unseen. It encouraged other pupils to upload pictures and comments about staff at the school. Some of the pictures had been taken during school or downloaded from the personal Facebook profiles of staff and uploaded to the site. Often the pictures included time spent with families and loved ones and had attracted a collection of abusive remarks from unnamed pupils, allegedly from the school.
Are Policies a Protection?
Whilst Facebook users are afforded a small level of protection through it’s real-name and anti-abuse policies, there is no such governance and little to protect those that have been exposed on a website set up just for the purpose of abuse. Smartphones and digital cameras can be used by perpetrators to take photos and videos during lessons for instant uploading. To help protect staff, most schools have policies restricting use of smartphones and cameras on school premises, but this is difficult to police. A vengeful student or one out to create a few laughs from their peers are not going to find it all that difficult to surreptitiously capture images of staff to upload. Once on the Internet, it may be awhile before the content is noticed, by which time it may have attracted quite a few derogatory comments.
And once there, success in removal of the obnoxious content can be slim leaving the sort of Digital Footprints online that you would probably prefer not to have.
Aside from the implications for your Digital Footprint, it did get me thinking about the impacts and consequences on already stressed teaching staff. The thought that pictures or videos of a lesson in progress could be uploaded to such a site for abusive, sexual and racist anonymous comments is very worrying. Clearly this breach of privacy can be devastating, buy adipex-d perhaps leading to the undermining of a teacher’s class room authority, or the victim taking time off for stress or even leaving the profession altogether.
What the NASUWT Say
No wonder then that the issue was raised this week by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, NASUWT. In a press release, they talk about the huge rise in teachers subject to abuse on social media. Of the 1500 or so teachers who responded to the survey, a staggering 60% had seen abusive comments posted about them online compared with 21% in 2014. This also included an increase in parents taking to social media to post comments; 40% compared with 27% in 2014. The NASUWT say that
abusive, sexist, racist, homophobic and highly offensive language is common, accompanied by remarks about teachers’ appearance, competence or sexuality. Teachers also had false allegations and malicious slurs targeted at them.
More worrying is that only 30% or so victims are seeing action taken by social website owners or police, though increasing to nearly 57% support from employers (an increase from 45% in 2014). Clearly employers are starting to take the issue more seriously as impacts on staff morale increase. The report goes on to to say
The vile, insulting and personal comments are taking their toll on teachers’ health and wellbeing and undermining their confidence to do their job.
Many teachers tell us that they suspect they are being abused online but dare not look, for fear they could never walk into their school again to have to face their abusers.
Finishing, they say
An incoming Government must take this issue seriously and require schools not only to have a zero-tolerance policy, but to use all the sanctions available to them to address the abuse of staff.
Only time will tell if existing legislation will prove to be enough to keep this kind of unwanted Digital Footprint off the Internet. If not, then there is a real risk that teachers will find these additional stresses so intolerable as to leave their vocation altogether.