Over half of teachers know of pupils who have used social media to share sexual messages, pictures or videos, a survey by the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in the UK, has found.

A quarter of teachers knew of pupils involved in sexting who were just eleven years old, but the youngest child reported was just seven. The majority of pupils involved in such incidents were aged 13 to 16.

Over half of teachers said they were aware of pupils using social media to send insulting or bullying messages of a sexist nature to other students, 53% were aware of messages of a homophobic nature and half of teachers were aware of racist messages.

Over 1,300 teachers responded to the Union’s survey on social media abuse which also found that half of teachers have had adverse comments posted about them on social media sites by pupils and parents.

Particularly concerning is the increase in online abuse of teachers by parents with over half reporting receiving online abuse from parents in the last year, compared to 40% in 2015. The number of teachers reporting online abuse from parents has increased each year since the NASUWT first started the survey in 2014.

There has been a significant rise in the number of teachers receiving online abuse from pupils-55% compared to 48% in 2015.

While the vast majority of teachers did report the abuse from pupils or parents to their employer, the social network or the police, effective response to this abuse remains unacceptably low.

Despite the prevalence of social media abuse against teachers, only just over a quarter said that their school has an internet or social media policy that makes specific reference to protecting staff from abuse by social media.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:

“Over the three years the NASUWT has been running this survey the situation has deteriorated.

“Online abuse has a devastating impact on teachers and pupils lives and yet no serious action is taken by Government to ensure that schools are responding appropriately to this abuse.

“There are still too many cases where no appropriate action is taken when abuse is reported to headteachers, the police or the social networks themselves.

“The level of abuse that teachers are suffering at the hands of parents online is simply unacceptable. How can pupils be expected to use social media sensibly and safely when parents are using it inappropriately?

“Online abuse is traumatic and potentially life changing. Victims need strong support through a zero tolerance approach.”

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