The dangers of cyber-bullying are clear to kids of all ages – schools have recognised this as a serious problem and, to their credit, they are making attempts to make people aware of it.

Kids are given clear guidance on who to talk to and what they are able to resolve.  I can remember parents getting guidance on what they can do if they see it and how they can help their kids deal with anything they see that they don’t like.  Some schools have taken it further, with some banning apps like Snapchat and the like.  This is perhaps one rather simple way of dealing with the issue – prohibit the use of the technology that is apparently responsible.

All schools must have robust anti-bullying policies to make sure that children are protected and there is something that can be done to help in times of need – cases of bullying are dealt with efficiently and effectively.

I was never the victim of bullying at school so I couldn’t ever comment on how effective it was for me.  However, I saw other people go through the system at my school and I always thought it was slick and smoothly done.

In theory then, everyone is happy.  Everything is respectful and, when it isn’t, things are in place that ensure that kids are safe also.  Sadly, the practice of this has changed somewhat, and not in a way that you would expect.

A lot of new and interesting statements have come out of the latest round of Union conferences over the last week or so.  Some of them have centred around marking and workload – many looked at exams and starting formal education at too young an age.  Clearly lots of topics that are right at the top of education’s list of things to sort out.

However, there was one thing that I didn’t expect to appear on the list was cyber-bullying.  I mean, that’s already sorted, right?

Clearly not.

In a survey of 7,500 teachers conducted by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) 1 in 4 reported they had been the target of ‘adverse comments’ on the internet.

Utterly shocking.  Anyone curious as to some of the other details that were reported?

  • Mainly the focus of these attacks revolves around “appearance, competence and sexuality.”
  • Racist insults were common, false allegations (often referred to as malicious) of physical force against children have been noted, accusations of using offensive language and even the dreaded “inappropriate behaviour” allegations – every teacher’s worst nightmare, even if they are without basis or fact.
  • It almost seems inevitable to say that there are some people who are threatening teachers also.
  • More than a quarter of instances included the use of videos or photos that were taken without the permission of the teacher.

I’ll let you pick up your jaw for a second and tell you the worst bit.

Children as young as seven years old were involved in the abuse of teachers.  One in four of the insults or abuse online were made by parents.

I’m sorry, but that is some of the most appalling behaviour I have heard in a very long time.  It’s one thing for teenagers with their modern technology and sense of right and wrong to stray down the wrong path with teachers, but kids as young as seven?  When I was seven years old, I didn’t know what the internet even was, let alone manage to insult teachers and generally abuse them.  Surely any parents who are responsible enough to supervise a seven-year-old with the internet would see the sense in stopping them from saying such things?

Speaking of parents… so much for being a role model for kids.  To go out and hurl abuse at teachers for whatever reason is so entirely overstepping the mark it makes me wonder if it’s the parents who need to get back in the classroom again.  Not only is it degrading to the profession, but what kind of a message do you send out to your children by sitting behind a computer screen spewing out such hatred against the people charged with your child’s future?

I know teachers perhaps don’t get it always right – heck, I’ve sat through lessons and questioned the odd thing.  However, that’s no reason to go onto social media, hate-related sites and destroy the confidence of teachers and make them feel entirely worthless.  In a system where exams come first, teachers are the key to success.  To batter them every five minutes with some of the comments that have been reported is utterly destructive.

I guarantee if someone accused a child of using, say, racist language against someone, most parents would rush to the aid/defence of their child.  “Oh, that’s not like that”.  “That wouldn’t happen.”

There’s therefore no excuse to do that as a parent, in my view.  It’s utterly inadmissible. Even if your child was the most perfect golden boy/girl out there, it wouldn’t be any more acceptable, even if the teacher failed to perform to a set standard.

There are ways to offer an opinion or voice a concern about a teacher.  There are also ways not to do it.  Talking to senior staff and making concerns clear if someone questions the competency of the teacher is always the way to go – not to sit there and write mindless abuse on the internet.

You know something shocking about the response to insults and abuse?  Fewer than half of all cases get reported to schools or the police, because some are concerned it would be ‘too embarrassing.’

When it is reported…. In 40% of cases Headteachers chose not to take action against a student.  That rate increased to 55% when faced with a student.

Couple of points:

  • The action rate should without exception be 100%.  For Headteachers to not act, despite the fact that evidence can be collected by means of even a simple screen-shot, is shocking.  A clear message has to be sent that this is destructive and must stop.  Headteachers should not be concerned with the relationship they have with parents if parents who write abuse on the internet have no respect for the teachers charged with providing an education to their children.  Simple as that.  If I was a Headteacher, I wouldn’t care if every parent hated me if they were all mindlessly insulting my staff – that right to a view on how I do my job and manage my relations, in my view, has been lost.
  • Teachers should not be worried about reporting this abuse.  If anything it demonstrates a lack of confidence in the system, however it may work – I can only guess that every school has their own way of dealing with online abuse.  Either way, it’s clear that the systems employed do not work.  If it’s embarrassment to blame, why not make it anonymous?  If the teacher at the receiving end of the abuse doesn’t have to be involved in the discipline of a parent/child, then surely that creates doubt in the offender as to who reported them?  Surely that would cut down on people sending more abuse later.

Teachers should not be subjected to this.  It’s utterly disgraceful and has to stop.  I know education is a controversial topic, but there’s no defence for some of the things that have come to light.

Don’t do it – if you’re a parent actively discourage it.  If you see it, report it – if you’re a teacher, don’t live in fear.  And if you’re a Headteacher please act on it.




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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.