Countless stories of bullying, from the sad to the ridiculous, have surfaced over the years as the online community has become more and more connected. Now a new study from Plymouth University in the UK shows that teachers are subject to an unusual amount of cyberbullying.
According to a survey of almost 400 teachers by professor Andy Phippen, 35 percent cited experience with some form of cyberbullying. Of that group, 72 percent of the abuse came from students or former students, but more surprisingly, 26 percent came from parents.
“Everyone acknowledges this is a problem and something needs to be done about it, but schools lack support. It is a sticky area as some of the things posted may not be considered illegal,” he told the Huffington Post UK.
“I heard of one case where a teacher told his employers about the bullying and not only did they tell other members to staff to ignore this teacher, they also suspended him. Their reasoning was ‘there is no smoke without fire’.”
The walls and protection of the Internet seem to be catalyzing the viciousness. Teachers reported Facebook groups, chat rooms, Twitter accounts and a variety of additional online forums set up to harangue and smear them. Facebook does supply tips to teachers and promises to respond to complaints of abuse within 24 hours.
Perhaps there is a healthy element to the online outlet of expressing displeasure; we have review forums for doctors, hairdressers and lawyers after all. But the cases of outright libel and mean-spirited slander go beyond the pale. Parents should be mature enough to go through the proper administrative channels if they have an issue with a teacher.
“It seems to a subset of the population the teacher is no longer viewed as someone who should be supported in developing their child’s education, but a person whom it is acceptable to abuse if they dislike what is happening in the classroom,” said Prof Phippen.