Posted: Wed 17th Nov 2021

TikTok abuse of teachers having ‘devastating impact’, says Welsh minister

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Nov 17th, 2021

A trend that sees school pupils use the social media platform TikTok to mock and harass teachers has been slammed by a Welsh Government Minister.

Accounts first started appearing on the platform last month and the trend is continuing to grow.

The TikTok accounts use school crests as profile pictures and a handle containing the name of the school.

Posts often name and show images of specific teachers, often mocking them and some make unfounded allegations.

Speaking in the Welsh parliament on Tuesday, Minister for North Wales Lesley Griffiths said those creating “hoax” accounts are causing “great harm.”

She said, “fake school accounts are having a devastating impact on individuals.”

Headteachers have raised “deep concerns” over the TikTok trend.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said that over the past few weeks “school staff have suffered disgraceful abuse through messages and imagery posted on the social media platform TikTok.”

“We do not know how widespread this is but we have received over 50 reports, and we suspect there are many more.” He said last week.

“These posts are often defamatory and offensive, and some are homophobic.”

“Schools tell us that they have asked TikTok to remove them but TikTok has often failed to act despite these posts clearly breaching the platform’s community guidelines.”

“This material is extremely distressing for the staff who are targeted, and the young people who are posting it are involved in behaviour which could lead to them being excluded from school and, in extreme cases, being the subject of a police investigation.” Mr Barton added.

Flintshire

A number of accounts posing as Flintshire high schools have also been set up on TikTok.

Posts viewed by Deeside.com name and show images of specific teachers, several mocking the individuals they target.

ASCL Cymru says it has written to the Welsh Government, local education authorities and the Children’s Commissioner for Wales alerting them to issues around fake accounts impersonating schools in Wales.

We asked Flintshire Council last week what sort of guidance has been issued to schools in the county about the fake Tik Tok accounts, they are yet to respond.

During the Plenary session yesterday, Conservative MS Laura Ann Jones called for a statement about the issue from the Minister for Education.

She said: “It is becoming increasingly apparent that Governments need to take action now, working with social media organisations, to crack down on offensive videos aimed at teachers.”

“Teachers across Wales have been targeted with defamatory and offensive videos posted by these pupils on TikTok.”

“This is causing significant concern among teachers and school staff.”

“Teachers do a wonderful job educating our children.”

“Their role in schools needs to be a safe space for them, as well as the pupils.”

In response, Lesley Griffiths MS said it is “completely unacceptable that teachers are facing such behaviour.”

“I know that the (Education) Minister has liaised with the UK Council for Internet Safety to ensure that we have a co-ordinated approach across the UK on this matter”

She said UK Council for Internet Safety has contacted TikTok regarding the issue.

“I’m sure, are aware, it’s Anti-Bullying Week this week, so we are working with the office of the children’s commissioner to promote the range of classroom resources that are available on the Hwb to support respectful behaviour online. ”

“But, I do think that it’s absolutely critical that social media platforms recognise their responsibility and their duty of care to their users.”

Unions meet with Tik Tok 

Geoff Barton, and Paul Whiteman, General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), met with representatives of TikTok on Monday.

In a joint statement, Mr Barton and Mr Whiteman said: “We met with TikTok today and were pleased to have a constructive discussion focused on finding both immediate and long-term solutions to addressing the horrendous abuse of teachers that has featured in posts on the platform over the past two weeks.”

“We have been assured that TikTok has a large team working on this issue, that it has taken down hundreds of pieces of content, and that it has banned accounts and hashtags associated with this trend.”

“TikTok has also offered to provide communications to our members to help in terms of reporting abusive content and we will be circulating this guidance via our newsletters in due course.”

“The problem with all of this is that there appears to be a mismatch between the action being taken by TikTok and what we are hearing from members.”

“School leaders continue to tell us of posts on TikTok which target staff with highly offensive and defamatory material, and a number say TikTok has either not responded to requests to remove this content, or has decided there is no violation of community guidelines, which we find impossible to understand.”

“We can only hope that the situation improves and that the action being taken by TikTok proves effective in tackling this appalling trend. We will be monitoring the feedback we receive from school leaders.”

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