Students use mobile tech to make teachers' lives 'intolerable'

Students use mobile tech to make teachers' lives 'intolerable'

Summary: According to Scottish union leaders, students are frequently using social media to make teachers' lives a misery.

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According to Scottish teacher union representatives, students are frequently using social media and mobile technology to make teachers' lives miserable.

The Press Association reports that union leaders in Scotland, representing the country's secondary school teachers, have complained that nothing is being done to tackle the use of social networking and mobile technology to harass or attack teachers.

Abuse focused at education professionals can be conducted through social media sites, including Twitter and Facebook, whether it be via a status update, doctored photo, or insulting commentary. According to Margaret Smith, president of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, the use of technology in this manner is a "sinister development" which needs to be tackled head-on.

"Too often nothing is done to combat this behaviour and pupils believe that their conduct is without consequence," Smith said. "A sinister development over the past decade or so has been the co-ordinated targeting of some teachers. Social media networks, mobile phones and other technologies to which pupils have access make it so much easier to make a teacher's life intolerable and his or her job impossible."

The president of the association also said that teachers are often subject to "verbal abuse, threats and ridicule," as well as female members of staff required to endure comments relating to them personally that would in other circumstances be considered sexual harassment.

Accusing the Scottish government of inaction and complacency over student discipline, Smith said that as part of the educational system's duty of care towards students, the issue of indiscipline -- a problem for Europe rather than simply in Scotland -- has to be tackled before things get out of hand.

According to the union representative, teaching stress levels are at an "all-time high," but combating poor behavior -- both inside the classroom and digitally -- will help the situation, one in which fewer graduates are entering the teaching profession, or often leave after several years.

A Scottish Government spokesman told the news agency:

"The vast majority of pupils in our schools are well behaved and a credit to Scotland. However, any incident is one too many, and we are working across the sector to improve behaviour in schools. Independent research shows that behaviour, including serious indiscipline and violence, has improved since 2006."

Research reports have suggested that cyberbullying rates increased in line with the explosion of mobile technology, and it is not only teenagers who have to face the consequences. However, perhaps it's no surprise that students are now using social media and mobiles in this way -- as adults often leave their manners in the physical world and abuse others online, hidden under a supposed cloak of anonymity.

Topics: Education, Smartphones, Tablets

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Talkback

12 comments
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  • What kind of comments are "acceptable"?

    Of course students want to make fun of teachers - ummm, authority figures. The idea that we criminalize or punish snide comments and satire is absurd. If teachers want to have a moderated conversation the tools are there. The real problem is way beyond teaching - there is almost no way to stop a concerted attack on your reputation at this point in time. Even winning a retraction can damage your reputation and brand you as shrill or oddball.
    devils_advocate
    • Good question

      Where is the line between free speech and harassment? And what can realistically be done to prevent the latter?
      John L. Ries
  • Better Solution

    First off, the comments that "would in other circumstances be considered sexual harassment" are sexual harassment anywhere. That's the definition of that.

    That asside, why not be the sort of teacher to whom students wouldn't do that? We did all of this stuff to the worst teachers when I was a kid (though it was on MySpace back then), but the teachers that actually respected their students were immune to it. This sounds like an effort by disrespectful teachers to avoid being disrespected without giving some respect to the students first. Not fair.
    Erica Jones
    • Even teachers most students respect...

      ...can be the subject of truly vile comments, if not coordinated defamation campaigns; and it's also true that some teachers are unpopular because they demand more work than do their peers (which may well be a good thing). There is a limit on what can reasonably be done to protect people from harassment, but we should do what we can.
      John L. Ries
  • Someone call the thought police. And he wambulance.

    Cyberbullying is just newspeak for "someone made fun of me on twitter".
    Get an internet detective to backtrace them so you can take them to internet court before you have to baleet everything and suffer much butthurt.
    Kublakhanonomous
  • Teachers Get What They Preach

    Many, if not most, teachers are atheists who publicly mock faith in living to honor God. Disrespectful students don't live to honor God and they fill their lives with the same hypocrisy that disrespectful adults actualize. They always have and always will.
    I wonder how well teachers who are real Christians are able to tolerate noisy unhappy students. As an adult Christian I find it helpful to remember the idea that God created the miracle of life with Believers, Future Believers, and Reminders.
    WyseSky
    • Even if you're right...

      ...how is this relevant to the discussion?
      John L. Ries
    • Imaginary friend

      Your imaginary friend has no place in this discussion.
      qunungnauraq
  • At least there should be some savings

    The amount of time cleaners spent, at our school, removing the exact same abuse from toilet cubicles and desks, surely we're seeing some savings at least if it's all gone online?
    Our kids adapt, that's a good thing isn't it? What did people expect, encourage and expand IT use but don't expect kids to be kids any more? If only you could still expel students there might be a way to discourage this.
    Little Old Man
  • Extension of treatment of others

    My daughter has been object of coordinated attacks from the "popular" crowd. She came to the point of suicide, which fortunately, we caught and prevented with medication and counseling. Unfortunately, the school response has ranged from "we are impotent" to "she deserved it". I had not considered the possibility that the teachers could be subject to the same attacks, but do not find it surprising, in retrospect. Sadly, any enforced response would probably end up being an overreaction, so I am not sure what the answer is. Certainly, the parents should teach their childrent to do what is right, but many are absent, self-obsessed, or powerless.... to a large degree due to our lack of spiritual foundation to which WyseSky referred. Bottom line, we probably have to develop thick skins and/or avoid the media others use to attack us.
    JimboNobody
    • You put it better

      The other Talkbacker you mentioned implied that teachers deserve the abuse, which is absolutely false, no matter what their religious or anti-religious views are.
      John L. Ries
  • To an extent right

    Well I guess you are right on your point ...

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