Students committed most of cyber abuse suffered by second-level teachers

By Niall Murray, Education Correspondent

Students are responsible for most of the cyberbullying suffered by second-level teachers, a researcher has found.

The study by Dublin City University (DCU) researcher Liam Challenor found that social media was the main outlet for victimisation of teachers by their students.

He surveyed 577 second-level teachers as part of his doctoral research with DCU’s National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre.

While parents and other school staff also engaged in cyber-bullying, the responses showed that pupils were responsible for 59% of instances. Among those surveyed, nearly 10% had been the victims of online bullying themselves, but nearly 15% said they were aware of a colleague experiencing cyberbullying in the previous year.

However, Mr Challenor found there was a reluctance to report the issues or to seek help from management, despite the increased stress and anxiety associated with the behaviour, and the impact on their work.

The nature of the bullying, and the fact that it could be viewed online “again and again”, was what particularly got to one person who took part in the research.

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

Another told the survey that it was very embarrassing to read nasty comments about themselves with no chance to find out who was behind them or to defend themselves.

“This victimisation has a significant impact on the well-being of these teachers and on a teacher’s role within a school context,” said Mr Challenor, who presented his findings at the Psychological Society of Ireland’s national conference yesterday.

On the back of his findings, he recommends additional training for teachers and students on prevention and interventions in relation to bullying and cyber-bullying. The research participants who had been victimised reported that they predominantly sought supports from a spouse, but management or other teachers were also used for support, as well as online resources.

In order to protect their online safety, the most common methods used by teachers were increased privacy settings (adopted by 17%), changing their name to Irish online or using anti-virus software (both 14%), or reporting and blocking people (7%). The research also found that more than 7% did not know of any tools to stay safe online.

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