Teachers report high levels of anxiety and stress due to cyberbullying by pupils

Research by DCU’s National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre (ABC) has recommended a greater level of support for teachers’ well-being and online safety after a report found that almost 10% of teachers who participated in a study were the victims of online bullying and almost 15% were aware of a colleague experiencing cyberbullying in the last 12 months.

Teachers surveyed cited increased stress with many reporting that it significantly impacted them during their working day.

The research also found that less than half had received anti-bullying training. Liam Challenor, a doctoral researcher at DCU’s National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre highlighted the findings during a presentation titled “Cyberbullying of Post-Primary Teachers by Pupils in Ireland” at the Psychological Society of Ireland’s National Conference in Wexford (today).

The research surveyed 577 post-primary school teachers on the issue of cyberbullying which is defined as “the creation of digital texts, images and recordings that portray the teacher in ways that are demeaning and/or ridicule the teacher which are then transmitted to others.” It found that cyberbullying was mainly perpetrated by pupils (59%) with most of this victimisation taking place on social media.

Mr Challenor highlighted that the reported impact of cyberbullying ranged from increased anxiety and stress levels, negative impacts on their working environment and a reluctance to report the issue and seek help from management.

Commenting on the findings Mr Challenor said:

“The findings of this research show that some post-primary teachers in Ireland experience cyberbullying from pupils, parents and other school staff.

This victimisation has a significant impact on the well-being of these teachers and on a teacher’s role within a school context. It requires further supports to reduce cyberbullying in schools and to support everyone within the school community.”

The motivation to investigate this issue further arose after teachers mentioned their own experiences during a series of Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre training sessions in post-primary schools.”

Key Findings: 

● Teachers reported that they resorted to various methods to protect their online safety ranging from increasing their privacy settings (17.1%); using anti-virus software (14.1%); Changing their name to Irish online (13.6%); Reporting and blocking (6.9%).

● 7.4% of teachers did not know of any tools to stay safe online.

● Teachers who were victimised predominantly sought support from a spouse followed by management, other teachers and online supports.

Research participants also spoke of their experiences:

“It is very upsetting. It is also very embarrassing to read nasty comments written about you, with no chance to defend yourself and no means of finding out who is responsible.”

“Since it is in writing, it can be viewed again and again. The deliberate and underhand nature is intimidating and it’s hard to prevent further bullying.”

“Picture and video bullying can be accessed by more people online and has the potential to become viral. Wondering who else is there/involved/has seen it with no limit to how far it reaches/has reached.”

The research makes recommendations for best-practice to reduce the risk of cyberbullying ranging from:

● Developing a positive school culture and climate which results in increased student achievement; reduced teacher stress and burn-out.

● Additional prevention and intervention training for teachers and pupils on bullying and cyberbullying.

● Developing effective leadership which is positively correlated with reduced bullying.

● Creating a whole school approach as the best-in-class environment where pupils, parents and teachers have been found to have reduced incidents of bullying.

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