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Study: Teachers also victims of cyberbullying

Cyberbullying has long been recognized as a problem facing thousands of school children around the world, but now it appears that teachers are also victims of online bullying. In a survey of over 400 education professionals conducted by Plymouth University in the UK, 35 percent of participants reported that either they or one of their colleagues had been subjected to some form of online abuse.

Incidents ranged from postings on Facebook to campaigns of abuse on Twitter. The survey found that 72 percent of bullying was committed by current or former pupils, and 26 percent was initiated by parents.

Professor Andy Phippen, who led the research, suggested that schools were slow to confront this growing phenomenon. “Everyone acknowledges this is a problem and something needs to be done about it, but schools lack support,” said Phippen. “It is a sticky area, as some of the things posted may not be considered illegal.”

The fact that over one-quarter of the reported abuse came from parents was particularly surprising. The study highlighted the case of one principal who endured a 12-month long campaign by a parent at her school who used the Internet to post damaging and potentially libelous accusations about her conduct. She eventually sought medical help as a result of mini breakdown.

Prof. Phippen is calling for a nationwide support network to deal with the problem. “Schools are definitely playing down the severity of the issue, whether it’s because they just don’t realize, or because they don’t know how to deal with it.”

A spokesperson for the National Union of Teachers (NUT) said any of their members affected by online abuse should consult guidelines on how to stay “cybersafe,” which were issued by the union last year. The document includes several do’s and don’ts for teaching staff, including the following:

  • Do not post anything online (including personal information, photos, or school-related matters) that you wouldn’t want employers, colleagues, pupils or parents to see.
  • Do not befriend pupils or other members of the school community on social networking sites. (Staff should consider carefully the implications of befriending parents or ex-pupils and let school management know if they decide to do this.)
  • Do not personally retaliate to any incident.
  • Keep any evidence of an incident, for example by not deleting text messages or e-mails and by taking a screen capture of material, including URLs or web address.

Meanwhile, Prof. Phippen sees the incidence of teacher cyberbullying as part of a wider cultural shift in the traditional parent-teacher relationship. “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.”

Related post: Should teachers ‘friend’ students on Facebook?

Comment by cyberbullying, posted 10/20/2011, 2:17 PM:

Incidents ranged from postings on Facebook to campaigns of abuse on Twitter. The survey found that 72 percent of bullying was committed by current or former pupils, and 26 percent was initiated by parents. Great post, do you mind if I re-blog this (with full attribution and linking)? I really want to share it with my readers, they would find it very useful.
Comment by Online Moms, posted 9/2/2011, 3:58 AM:

now THIS is interesting. I never would have dreamed that cyber-bullying is a problem with teachers.
Comment by Online Moms, posted 8/22/2011, 12:37 AM:

people make problems not the technology that is used, a need for consequences
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