It was reported in the news today that the number of teachers facing abuse via social media has more than doubled over the last year, with staff being subjected to personal and professional insults and pictures and videos of them being uploaded without their consent. Worse still, 40% of this online abuse came from parents.
Only two days ago, a picture of a very attractive maths teacher went viral – one of his students at UCL had discovered that he also worked as a model and the student had taken a picture in the classroom and uploaded it to his social media sites. It seemed to be taken in a light-hearted manner and jokes were being made about suddenly developing an interest in algebra, but I was really annoyed on his behalf. The poor teacher may have been absolutely mortified. The question I asked that day to my Facebook friends was this:
What if he had done this to one of his students?
Teachers and staff have now become ‘fair game’ in the world of social media, particularly when using Facebook. From the outset of starting a teaching career, the rules are simple. Don’t add the students, don’t post anything embarrassing and watch what you say. Granted, over the years I have become ‘friends’ with a select group of former students who are now adults and have their own careers and families, but I am so conscious of the risk that having a Facebook page entails that I use an alias to stop my current students finding me, as many of my friends in the teaching profession now do.
I remember a conversation that I had with a former colleague a few years ago. This teacher is, to be frank, an extremely handsome man, and he had done some modelling in the past. He told me that when working at a previous school, a parent had secretly taken pictures of him on her phone because she thought he was ‘hot.’ There were a number of students who had pictures of him too, and they were shared around Facebook. Another colleague of mine is on YouTube – it is a perfectly innocent video of him conducting a choir a few years ago, but the fact is that someone has filmed him (and lots of students) without his consent and posted the video to one of the biggest social media sites in the world where anyone could write anything about him at any time.
This isn’t uncommon. It’s easy to find videos of teachers on YouTube. I’ve seen pictures and videos of former colleagues on Facebook groups, and read the disgusting abuse that has been written underneath. One set of comments about a colleague were particularly awful, to the point where I went to my line manager about it and reported it to Facebook. Funnily enough, the student who had posted those comments returned to the school a year later for work experience, and I refused to work with him.
It angers me that we are no longer seen as human beings, and the state of play is less than fair. Can you imagine what would happen if we took pictures of our students and their parents, uploaded it to our Facebook pages and made comments about them? Or secretly filmed a child in the classroom, put it on YouTube and then encouraged others to mock them?
We’d be sacked and potentially prosecuted for cyberbullying.
Of course, there are a number of questions that are being asked in response, and of course they imply that it is the teacher at fault. How has the child been able to take a picture in a lesson? What was the teacher doing? Why don’t teachers just get rid of their Facebook pages and stop complaining?
As a teacher, I have a question.
At what point did the respect for the profession become so low that children, and indeed their parents, feel that they have a right to embarrass and humiliate someone because they are a teacher.
It’s no wonder that 40% of teachers now leave within the first year.
What about you? Do you think that students and their parents should be made accountable for their actions on social media?
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