By Claude Carroué
The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), an EI affiliate in the UK, has expressed its concern about cyberbullying. This arises out of its 2013 study, “The abuse of social media and internet sites – A survey of teachers’ experiences”.
NASUWT recognises that developments in technology provide positive and productive channels of communication. In addition, they can also significantly improve support for learning and the working practices of teachers and other school staff. However, the union has been concerned for some time about the routine abuse of social media, internet sites, and mobile phones and continues to campaign against cyberbullying in schools.
“Abuse of technology and cyberbullying is having a devastating effect on teachers’ health, well-being, confidence, self-esteem and, in some cases, career progression as a result of employers trawling the sites for information to use against employees or prospective employees,” stresses the NASUWT report.
NASUWT: Abuses of technology and cyberbullying
The study’s results are deeply troubling, highlighting that:
• The vast majority of abuse of teachers on social media and internet sites is carried out by pupils aged between 11 and 16 years of age
• Parents are also using the internet and social media sites to abuse, harass, and make false accusations against teachers
• Teachers are not widely reporting incidents of cyberbullying for fear of reprisals or the matter not being taken seriously by the head teacher or principal
• Schools are not responding positively to cyberbullying incidents reported by staff
• Some schools are regularly failing in their duty of care by not having anti-bullying policies in place
• Many teachers are not aware of their rights at work that protect them from cyberbullying incidents
• Some teachers are concerned that reporting cyberbullying incidents would have a negative impact on their future careers
Some disturbing experiences were reported by teachers, including violent, sexual, and discriminating comments and messages. Teachers reported that parents had commented inappropriately, such as: “too old to be teaching, time they got rid of her”, or “allegation of inappropriate behaviour with pupils”.
The NASUWT 2014 survey shows that cyber bullying and cyber harassment is a growing problem in schools and that many schools are not equipped to deal with this issue in an effective manner.
ETUCE: Teachers’ health and safety a priority
The EI European region, the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE), has released Practical guidelines for anti-cyber harassment measures in education. The document underlines ETUCE’s ongoing concern and prioritisation of teachers’ health and safety, as well as all forms of violence and harassment against teachers.
Throughout several projects, ETUCE has worked to ensure stable and secure working environments for teachers and schools staff, and offered to help to establish union strategies and anti-cyber harassment measures.
“New risks on teachers’ health and safety, such as cyber harassment, are emerging with significant speed and are a growing problem in Europe,” the report reads. “Therefore, ETUCE instigated a follow up project on violence in schools with a focus on cyber harassment. Cyber harassment can be understood as the use of information and communication technologies for repeatedly deliberate and hostile behaviour by an individual or a group with the intention to harm others. Cyber harassment is furthermore to be considered a psychosocial hazard in the working environment of teachers, as it can deeply affect the personality, dignity and integrity of the victim.”