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?