Parents 'must teach children about dangers of smartphones before they take them to school'

21st December 2017 at 17:43
Teaching union raises concerns as survey shines a light on the online abuse faced by teachers and suggests that many schools do not help staff to navigate social media

Parents should train their children in the dangers of smartphones before letting them loose with their new gadgets in schools, a teaching union has said.

The Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) made the argument after surveying 1,180 members and finding that a quarter had had negative experiences on social media at the hands of pupils – including death threats and sexual bullying.

General secretary Seamus Searson said the mobile phones many children will receive for Christmas “can have an extremely damaging impact upon other children, adults and teachers”, and that 71 per cent of teachers surveyed had not had any training on social media, while 26 per cent were not confident in using social media.

He added: “In the first instance, it must be the responsibility of the parent to ensure appropriate guidance. No parent would give a motorbike to a 13-year-old and say, ‘Off you go on the road and enjoy yourself,’ without taking responsibility for what might happen. Of course not, but why should parents not take the same responsibility for a child with a mobile telephone?”

'Pupils joined a group to "kill" school staff'

Comments from teachers surveyed by the SSTA included:

"Pupils unable to be away from the phones for any length of time as they are totally addicted to social media and this causes discipline issues on a daily basis, and a lot of stress. Academic performance has been hit and the future of several of the pupils is a major concern."

"Threatened via Facebook along with many other staff. Pupils were encouraged to join a group to 'kill' school staff."

"A pupil took a photo of me in school and edited it by adding text saying I was a paedophile [which] led to a great distress in my professional and personal life."

"A pupil created a Twitter account in my name, including a photograph of me, in which they included a large amount of abuse. This included racist remarks, and ones of a sexual and sexually abusive nature."

"Photograph of a teacher taken in class. The head superimposed on to a naked female and posted on social media."

"Most of our fights/arguments between pupils stem from social media, then the pupils meet each other face to face in school."

"I was subjected to horrendous online bullying of a sexual nature from two pupils at my school."

"There is a constant pupil abuse of texting, sexting and sending of indecent images in school."

"[There are] a large number of ‘school refusers’ as a consequence of online bullying."

A snap Tes poll this month suggested that a majority of UK teachers believed schools should follow their French counterparts' example and ban mobile phones, although a previous survey – jointly run by Tes, Mumsnet and First News – suggested teachers were split evenly over the issue.

Peter Twining, professor of the future of education at the Open University, told Tes at the time that, rather than banning phones, schools should include them in lessons.

“Schools can’t afford all the [technological] kit they need. It seems bonkers not to take advantage of the fact that young people have this technology in their pockets that they could use for educational purposes,” he said.

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