/ Parenting, Technology

Pupils are baiting teachers on social networks

Blackboard saying 'I must follow the rules'

Pupils are increasingly cyberbaiting their teachers via social networking sites with 17% of teachers saying they’ve heard of or know a colleague who has experienced cyberbaiting. Is it right to ‘friend’ pupils online?

The phenomenon, according to Norton’s annual Online Family report, involves students irritating a teacher until the teacher gets angry or has a breakdown. Students are ready for this ‘crack’ and record the moment for immediate online distribution.

On the plus side, schools are introducing a code of conduct to cut down on this type of ‘cyberbullying’ and 77% of teachers say their school has a code for teacher and student online interaction.

However, 16% don’t have one and 7% don’t know of one. The older the school year, the less likely the teacher is to have a code of online conduct.

Do we really need a code of conduct?

While it’s great to see the majority of schools do have a code in place, I’m not sure that they really need one. Surely the nature of the student-teacher relationship, coupled with a little common sense, dictates the need for a professional distance.

Teachers rarely socialise with their pupils out of school, so why are they chatting to them online? Social networks, such as Facebook, are as the name suggests – social.

I have a number of friends who are teachers. One is on Facebook and recently unfriended the parents of a pupil who were badgering him online. The other, a recent convert, keeps her profile set to private so her pupils can’t see any of the messages she posts.

By the same token NHS workers ought to realise that posting messages about their patients on a social network is both reckless and unprofessional. Equally, judges and police investigators shouldn’t reveal details of ongoing cases, nor should jury members post their views on what happens in court – if they did, they’d be breaking the law.

Boundaries, not codes

While teachers shouldn’t invite online interaction with pupils, that’s no defence against the minority of pupils who aim to push their teachers to meltdown, only to film the result. Videos such as these are then posted online with a view to ‘going viral’.

This is cyberbullying pure and simple – regardless of whether the pupil or teacher is the victim.

In these instances it’s useful for educational or other public services to have a written code of conduct to fall back on. Even so I’d argue that the rules are no different than in our daily lives. Just as bullying – of any sort – is unacceptable in the classroom, so it is online.

Does your profession restrict your use of social networks? Or perhaps you avoid them altogether? Do you think it’s right for teachers and pupils to make ‘friends’ online?

painstick says:
22 November 2011

It is totally inappropriate for teachers to ‘friend’ or have any non-professional contact with students. Teachers must never try to be friends with pupils and always maintain professional distance. Be friendly but not a friend.

Thoroughly agree, I would’ve thought it quite dangerous for a teacher to “friend” a pupil in any circumstances. There’s no obligation for teachers or anyone to be on Facebook in the first place.

I disagree with Sarah on the code of conduct issue – I think having one is extremely important. Up until quite recently I’d have said that there’s no need to have a code of conduct for social networking and that people should just use their common sense, but there have been so many stories recently about people saying/doing things online that I’ve been shocked by. My main reaction – how did you not *know* that was stupid? i.e. Teachers ‘friending’ students.

But then I am very familiar with social media, know how it works, am comfortable with the level of privacy I have, etc. Others perhaps are not so sure, or are unaware of some of the dangers (e.g. facebook’s ever-changing privacy settings). I think having a code of conduct could be useful to those who aren’t social media savvy – at least with a code of conduct everyone knows where they stand.

I’m actually surprised to discover that there are so many schools that don’t have one. All it will take is one incident of inappropriate chat/friendship online and they’ll come up with a code of conduct faster than you can say ‘add as friend.’ I’d advise any headteacher to get one in place before this happens.

Internet John says:
7 December 2011

It says a lot for the teacher that has a Facebook page anyway.

Instead of teaching kids about the Roman Empire they could get someone else in to teach them ‘Manners’.
It is not acceptable to swear on public transport. They could start there.
I’ve been on a bus and witness a schoolboy bounce a basketball for ten minutes against a back window while the driver drove in rush hour traffic.

Never see a teacher on there to make sure the kids aren’t distracting the driver by playing five a side football on the top deck.
They’re too busy doing more important Social networking stuff aren’t they ?