Posted: Thu 25th Nov 2021

Updated: Thu 25th Nov

Education minister ‘appalled and deeply troubled’ by harassment of teachers on TikTok

North Wales news and information

A “trend” that sees school pupils use the social media platform TikTok to mock and harass teachers has been slammed by the Welsh Government minister for education.

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, mocking them and some make unfounded allegations.

Jeremy Miles MS, minister for education, has issued a written statement today about the abuse teachers are suffering.

In it he said: “I am appalled and deeply troubled by the recent trend of targeting teachers and school staff on social media.

“It is completely unacceptable that teachers are being subjected to explicit, offensive and harmful content online and any such abuse should not be tolerated.

“Protecting the well-being of staff is of paramount importance and this is even more crucial given the challenging times we are living in.

“Where such deplorable abuse is directed towards teachers and schools on social media I recognise that not only does this have a distressing impact on individuals, it can also have significant adverse implications for the education community.”

Mr Miles has instructed his officials to contact TikTok directly to “express my concerns around the considerable distress this is causing teachers and request that any instances of inappropriate or offensive content be removed immediately.”

Executives at TikTok have confirmed that they “are committed to resolving this matter urgently.”

Mr Miles said: “I understand that a dedicated trust and safety team has been established and are working at pace to remove and/or ban accounts that have been identified as impersonating schools or posting bullying and harassing content directed towards teachers.

“TikTok has also confirmed that content moderators are working proactively to identify and remove any new instances of abusive content posted on the platform. My officials will continue to work with TikTok, and keep me updated on this matter.

“This trend has been seen right across the UK and it is essential we take a co-ordinated, collaborative and robust approach.

“We are working closely with the UK Council for Internet Safety, whose members include leading online safety charities, UK Government and devolved nations.”

The UK Safer Internet Centre, have agreed an escalation process with TikTok, to ensure the removal of abusive content reported through the Professionals Online Safety Helpline.

Mr Miles said: “I urge all teachers or school staff who have experienced any instances of online abuse to report these directly to the Professionals Online Safety Helpline.”

The education minister warned schools not to “inadvertently” promote the trend to pupils, adding “new guidance is to exercise care and caution to avoid inadvertently promoting, and thereby further encouraging, any harmful viral trend.

“There is well-documented research that highlights instances where well-meaning coverage from organisations has unintentionally driven up interest in viral trends.

“As such, I would urge a responsible and careful conversation on this issue and would encourage schools to refer to this guidance.”

Mr Miles said he is of a “firm belief that social media platforms must recognise their responsibility and duty of care to their users and play their part in stamping out online abuse.

“I welcome the enhanced protections that the forthcoming Online Safety Bill promises to provide and look forward to working with Ofcom to ensure a consistent approach to ultimately provide a safer online experience for all.

“I would like to end by reaffirming that no teacher should be subjected to abuse on social media and I would encourage anyone who has been affected to draw upon the support available from your school, trade union and the Professionals Online Safety Helpline.

“Finally, I wish to extend sincere thanks to all those teachers for their continued hard work and dedication to the profession.”

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