Over the last few months, the recent viral trend of targeting teachers and pupils on social media platforms is causing a great deal of concern throughout the UK. It’s clear that from the reports we’ve received on the Professionals Online Safety Helpline, professionals are still trying to address the problem with many feeling considerable distress and uncertainty both in relation to their own reputation and for the pupils they are working to support. It can be difficult to know how to effectively handle the problem. From the reports the helpline has received, hundreds of contacts got in touch last week compared to the average of around '20 per week' the helpline usually receives. In this article, we’ll shed light on what’s been happening as well as provide some advice if you are currently experiencing this problem.
What has been happening?
Many schools have made reports about their pupils making explicit, offensive and harmful videos on social media, particularly on TikTok. The videos are either bullying other pupils or making reference to the school or individual teachers themselves through a variety of online accounts. Some of the content that has been shared includes pictures of staff being pulled from their organisations' website and being altered to include pornographic imagery, offensive wording or harmful accusations relating to conduct or personality. Other content contains offensive and derogatory wording about pupils. As well as this, schools’ trademarked logos and other pieces of branding have been used, highlighting concern over how it will affect their schools’ reputation online.
Carmel Glassbrook (Professionals Online Safety Helpline Lead) said:
Professional reputation is something that goes with us through all walks of life. Like most things though, it is fragile and can be deeply affected from only the slightest of accusations. Professionals working with children should be protected in the same way that their pupils are. The impact of these videos can go far beyond what pupils originally intended showing how easily online content can get out of control.
In response to this, many teachers have been deeply affected, with some taking time off to deal with stress. As well as reports to the helpline, TikTok have been trying to resolve the problem with the Department for Education also coming forward. The mainstream news media and teaching unions have picked up on the story, reporting on it whilst highlighting the helpline over the past few days.
Advice From Professionals Online Safety Helpline
While the videos themselves may be distressing, it is important to remember, more often than not, that children and young people will merely see these videos as nothing more than a joke. There will be little thought around the impact that the videos may be having and the seriousness of how much it has affected schools and the staff that work with them. Similarly, there may be little consideration about the impact on pupils targetted. Carmel has recorded a video to share advice on how to report any videos:
TikTok are currently working to resolve the issue and remove content. A TikTok Spokesperson said:
"We are crystal clear that hateful behaviour, bullying and harassment have no place on TikTok. We regret the distress caused to some teachers as a result of abusive content posted to our platform. We've already deployed additional technical measures and guidance, and we continue to proactively detect and remove violative content and accounts.
"While anyone can report inappropriate content in-app, we also partner with the Professional Online Safety Helpline to provide teachers with an additional way to report content, and we have committed additional funding for this service in light of recent events. We have written to every school in the country to ensure all staff have access to the resources they need, and we'll continue to work with affected schools, teachers, parents, unions and other partners to stamp out this intolerable abuse."
Any school reporting content on TikTok should report it through the Professionals Online Safety Helpline. To understand where POSH can assist you in escalating content, please download this advice.
Carmel has also written an in-depth article around reporting fake accounts online and what you can do when trying to get them removed. Take a look here: https://swgfl.org.uk/magazine/schools-fake-accounts-and-ripas-what-you-can-do/
We offer a mediatory service that can assist with where you may be struggling. There is also a free helpline available Education Support which can assist if you are experiencing any wellbeing concerns.
* If you have contacted the helpline and not got a response, please check your junk/spam folders as we are hearing from a lot of schools that emails are ending up there.