Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Teachers have one of society's most important roles and deserve protection from abuse by social media trolls

Today we publish a disturbing story about teachers in Northern Ireland suffering appalling levels of abuse through social media. (PA Archive)
Today we publish a disturbing story about teachers in Northern Ireland suffering appalling levels of abuse through social media. (PA Archive)

Editor's Viewpoint

Today we publish a disturbing story about teachers in Northern Ireland suffering appalling levels of abuse through social media.

The problem was highlighted at the northern conference of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO).

Forms of abuse include false accusations, sexual comments and bullying. There are many positive factors about social media, but the reality remains that so much of it can be nefarious and, ironically, anti-social.

In the same way that individuals from many different backgrounds find themselves targeted for a careless word or some other public shaming, like putting people in the "stocks" of old, it is now teachers who find themselves at the mercy of the trolls in their own classroom.

A particularly troubling aspect of this is that some teachers are finding themselves being trolled by the parents of the children.

The unwarranted vilification is such that many teachers are suffering severe stress, and they often find proper redress hard to come by.

The victims of false accusations and lewd comments are in fact being bullied, and this takes two forms. There is the 'open' form meted out on Twitter, Facebook and other outlets, and also the more 'closed' form of bullying that takes place in private messaging groups but which inevitably leaks out.

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There was a time when teachers expected, and were deservedly given, respect for their role as pillars of society, and this respect was given particularly by the parents of the children.

No one is advocating a return to a world where teachers were almost always regarded as right.

However, we all know that while some have failed their pupils, the vast majority are decent people trying to uphold the highest standards of their profession. Teachers play a pivotal role in educating and shaping the next generation. They have a demanding job and deserve protection.

It is vitally important, therefore, that INTO has highlighted the problem and is mooting a social media agreement to help to deal with it. Other professions could learn from the teachers.

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