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January 12, 2011

Teachers receiving Facebook abuse from pupils and parents

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by Darren Allan

It’s not easy being a teacher these days, by all accounts, and social networking sites aren’t helping.

Apparently sites like Facebook are being used more and more to initiate personal attacks on teaching staff, and spread unsubstantiated rumours and allegations. Not just by pupils, but also by parents angry at the treatment (or perhaps punishment) their child has received.

So much so that according to the Press Association, the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) has said that the number of calls to its advice line regarding dealing with problems on social networks has rocketed. It’s the fastest growing source of calls for advice.

The NAHT has issued guidance to update school discipline and “acceptable use” policies to include social networks, the Press Association notes.

Headteachers are also being advised on techniques for preventing the escalation of issues on social networking sites, and how to contact ISPs to make a removal request if necessary. Or indeed, when to get the police involved.

The BBC pointed out a 2009 report by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the Teacher Support Network, which indicated that around 15% of teachers have experienced cyber-bullying at some point in their career.

EDIT: A Facebook spokesperson has released the following statement on the topic:

“Facebook has a real name culture which provides greater accountability as, unlike other websites, people must take responsibility for their actions. Facebook has clear rules about content which can be posted on the site and we provide people with robust mechanisms to report content or activity that breaches our terms. These include report links on nearly every page of our site for members, whilst non-members can report content through the help centre on www.facebook.com/help. Reports of a serious nature, such as bullying or harassment, are prioritised and reviewed by a team of trained assessors within 24 hours.

“Facebook has worked hard to develop these reporting mechanisms but the reality is that many discussions that take place on Facebook reflect those that are happening offline. However while you can’t report a conversation outside the school gates or easily stop a person sending abusive, anonymous e-mails, Facebook gives people the tools to report offensive content they are concerned about. Having the tools to report content in this way gives people more control over what is said about them on Facebook than over the wider web where few such controls exist.”

Story link: Teachers receiving Facebook abuse from pupils and parents

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