Parents, as well as pupils are engaged in cyberbullying of school teachers, according to a study to be presented to the annual conference of the Psychological Society of Ireland, on Thursday.
The study, entitled The Cyberbullying of Post-Primary Teachers by Pupils in Ireland engaged with 577 post-primary teachers, exploring how they self-regulate their profiles on social media, and their attitudes towards communicating with students online.
Participants said bullying could take the form of adverse comment from pupils and their parents on Whatsapp groups, as well as social media sites where pupils “rate” teachers and direct emails.
In one case a parent attending a meeting with a teacher and a principal used a smartphone to record the meeting, later putting it online. The use of smartphones by pupils to record teachers during class was also noted.
The study by Liam Challenor, Irene Connolly and James Norman found 9.5 per cent of participant teachers reported incidents of cyber bullying of themselves, while almost 15 per cent reported being aware of another teacher being cyberbullied.
Results identify several significant differences between victimised and non-victimised teachers in how they perceived school climate, stress, reporting, and help-seeking behaviour.
However, Mr Challenor said the incidents and levels should not be exaggerated and become a source of fear for teachers. He said the study had found more than 500 participants had noted a “positive school climate” and bullying could be dealt with once strategies were in place and codes of respectful behaviour were known by all concerned.
Mr Challenor said the “surprise” in the research was that some 52 per cent of participants had not received any digital training in cyberbullying or the prevalence of such behaviour and how to deal with it.
He said teachers reported concern that “picture and video bullying can be accessed by more people online and has the potential to become viral”. Teachers wondered who was involved, how many have seen it, and were alarmed that there was no limit to how far a video could reach or had already reached.
Commenting on the findings, Mr Challenor, who also works at the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre at Dublin City University, said it was important to stress there were resources and supports available for teachers, which could be accessed online. He particularly mentioned the tacklebullying.ie website which offers resources for teachers and their classes, and the antibullyingcentre.ie which focuses on training in schools.
Mr Challenor said the study “recommends further supports for teachers well-being and online safety. Additional recommendations are made for education, policy and practice,” he said.
The Psychological Society of Ireland is a professional body for psychologists. Its annual conference is being held in Wexford from Thursday to Saturday.