Teachers are 'bullied by own pupils online'

One in 10 post-primary teachers say they are victims of online bullying, and it is mainly at the hands of pupils.

Parents and colleagues are also responsible for some of the bullying, according to research at the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre (ABC) at Dublin City University (DCU).

The victimisation has a significant impact on the well-being of these teachers and on a their role within a school context, according to researcher Liam Challenor.

The cyberbullying involves digital texts, images and recordings portraying the teacher in ways that are demeaning and/or causing ridicule, which are then transmitted to others.

It takes place mainly on social media and teachers are using various methods to try to protect themselves, including using their Irish name online.

The study came about because of concerns raised by teachers during a series of anti-bullying training sessions in schools run by ABC. Almost 580 teachers contributed to the research and 10pc said they experienced online bullying – pupils were responsible in 59pc of cases.

Almost 15pc said they were aware of a colleague experiencing cyberbullying in the past 12 months.

The research found almost 14pc had resorted to changing to the Irish version of their name online in the hope of avoiding the bullies; 17pc had increased privacy settings; 14pc use anti-virus software; and 7pc use reporting and blocking mechanisms.

However, more than 7pc of the teachers did not know of any tools to stay safe online, according to the findings.

Teachers in the study cited increased stress, with many reporting that the bullying significantly affected them during their working day.

The research also found that less than half had received anti-bullying training.

Mr Challenor presented his findings at the Psychological Society of Ireland’s National Conference in Wexford, where he called for further supports to reduce cyberbullying in schools and to support everyone within the school community.

He said one teacher had reported that it was “very upsetting and also very embarrassing to read nasty comments written about you, with no chance to defend yourself and no means of finding out who is responsible”.

Another said: “Since it is in writing, it can be viewed again and again.

“The deliberate and underhand nature is intimidating and it’s hard to prevent further bullying.”

Another participant in the study expressed concern that “picture and video bullying can be accessed by more people online and has the potential to become viral”.

They said wondering who else had seen it or was involved was incredibly stressful.

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