From what the past couple of weeks has shown us, the recent viral trend of targeting teachers 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 (POSH), professionals are still trying to address the problem with many feeling considerable distress and uncertainty of 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 around their pupils making explicit, offensive and harmful videos on social media, particularly on TikTok. The videos are either 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 organisation’s website and being altered to include pornographic imagery, offensive wording or harmful accusations relating to conduct or personality. As well as this, school’s trademarked logos and other pieces of branding have been used, highlighting concern over how it will affect their schools’ reputation online.

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, there has been a coordinated effort through the UK Council for Internet Safety to report the issue to TikTok, who are working to resolve the problem. The mainstream news media have picked up on the story, with the BBC and TES reporting on it whilst highlighting the helpline over the past few days. 

Professionals Online Safety Helpline

While the videos themselves may be distressing, it is important to remember that, more often than not, children and young people will 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. 

TikTok are currently working to resolve the issue and remove content with focus around how scenarios such as these can be prevented in the future. If your school or staff are currently experiencing abuse through social media videos, it is important to first of all report it to the platform directly. We have written an in-depth article around reporting fake accounts online and what you can do when trying to get them removed. 

Once a report has been made then do get in touch with the helpline for further support and signposting. We offer a mediatory service that can assist with where you may be struggling. If you want to find out more about how best to use this service and report content to POSH, take a look at this short video.  There is also a free helpline available Education Support which can assist if you are experiencing any wellbeing concerns.

Carmel Glassbrook, Project Lead for Professionals Online Safety Helpline at SWGfL

Carmel has worked on the Professionals Online Safety Helpline (POSH) since 2015, starting as a practitioner and now managing the whole project. In this time Carmel has helped, and consulted on nearly 10,000 contacts to the helpline, putting her in a unique position to advise the government and work closely with industry.