The online abuse (or “cyberbullying”) of children and young people has been well documented in research and the media, and there is much advice and support for these issues. While there is still much to be done around awareness and education of the impacts of cyberbullying of young people, a far less understood phenomenon is the abuse of education professionals by those in their care and also other adults they come into contact with in their professional capacity (in particular the parents of pupils). Discourse with teachers and associated education professional by members of the UK Safer Internet Centre identified this as a growing issue – senior management teams and individual staff members are becoming increasingly concerned about the prevalence of abuse, its perceived acceptability, and the impact of such.
Research was conducted in order to better understand the phenomenon and its impacts. It engaged with education professionals to give them a voice to discuss the issues they face and to build an evidence base to inform policy and practice around protecting professionals while conducting their job roles. It underpinned the establishment of a Professional Online Safety Helpline, which was established in the early part of 2011 to provide a consistent line of support for professionals facing abuse issues, whether related to them or the pupils in their care.
This report presents the results of this research, carried out over a six month period, prior to the establishment, and during the first 3 months of operation, of the helpline. It explores the engagement of education professionals with digital technologies, the policy and support they receive around the professional use of technology and the right to protection from abuse, and the prevalence and nature of the abuse. The report brings together data from multiple sources to present a worrying picture of a profession where abuse is, for some, commonplace, and where the impacts of such can be extremely damaging for the victim and potentially their peers and family. It demonstrates the value of a consistent line of support for education professionals in all matters related with online technology and both child and professional protection.
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