Shockingly, a 2011 study performed by the American Psychological Association Board of Educational Affairs Task Force on Classroom Violence Directed Against Teachers, found that 80% of the approximately 3000 K-12 teachers surveyed felt victimized by students, students’ parents, or colleagues. Among the reports of verbal intimidation, physical aggression, obscene gestures, and theft/damage of personal property, cyberbullying was a relatively common method of harassment reported by teachers.
A different study specifically investigating cyberbullying found that of 630 teachers, 15% reported having been bullied online. Bullying tactics included hate messages/groups targeting specific individuals, in addition to photographs or videos being posted with malicious intent. 45% of teachers reported they knew a colleague who was a victim, and 17% reported being aware of hate groups being set up.
In an even more recent survey performed by the NASUWT researchers, it was found that 21% of teachers have received abuse on social media and online forums. 64% reported abuse from students, 27% reported abuse from parents, and 9% reported abuse from both students and parents. Of the 7500 teachers surveyed, most didn’t report their bullying experience to authorities. The 40% who did report abuse to school administration said no action was taken against students and 55% said no steps were taken against parents. In cases where abuse was reported to police, over 75% also reported that no legal action was taken against parents or students.
Despite all of this, there are teachers using social media networks to engage students or create virtual classrooms. Stephen Balkam, CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute, has stressed the need for educators to have a presence in social media and teach students how they can be used constructively.
What perpetuates the problem of teachers getting bullied, however, is three-fold. First, when there is a lack of respect between pupils and teachers and when teachers allow students to engage with them in a personal or private scenario. Teachers should keep their personal profiles to themselves and if desired, “friend” students later when they are young adults and no longer a student. If a parent isn’t involved in knowing what their child posts in social media, or isn’t specifically teaching their child that it’s never, ever OK to be disrespectful, rude or mean to others (including their teachers) online, then those parents are a part of this problem.
In an attempt to foster a healthier online experience within classrooms, Yoursphere is now offering a teacher program where students and teachers can interact in an open and constructive environment with a school or classroom sphere. Teachers can monitor content posted in the sphere as well as allow students to create their own spheres as part of the curriculum. Only members of the class have access to the content in the sphere or the ability to contribute content, which can include research links, personal projects or simply their own creative ideas. All of these interactions are public and there is no friending between teachers and students. All of these interactions are enabled through the teacher program, without the “unknowns” and legal/administrative issues tied to the use of other social media sites in academic settings. Regardless of the maturity of the students and precautions taken by teachers, many social networks have functionality beyond what can be controlled and can lead to abusive remarks or even cyberbullying.
If you’d like to learn more about this free program for educators for the 2014-2015 school year, visit our information page.
USA Today: Teachers, students and social media: Where is the line?
The Guardian: What can be done to protect teachers from cyberbullying?
California Teachers Association: Cyberbullying of teachers
The Guardian: Teachers suffer cyberbullying by pupils and parents
CNN: When teachers are the bully’s target
Yoursphere is now available for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch! Download it now!