A startling piece of news caught my attention the other day. A study by Professor Andy Phippen found several instances where students abused teachers on websites such as Facebook and Twitter!
This is not a one off case either. When I searched the net for proof of further such instances, I found that teachers from across the world are reporting cases of anonymous abuse over the Internet. According to the results of a survey conducted by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the organisation has seen a marked increase in calls and emails from teachers who had experienced online abuse.
I wonder what the world is coming to. Where is the intrinsic respect and fear of Teachers that our generation unquestioningly had? Are we spoiling our kids so much with gifts and liberation that they have forgotten to accord to their adults the basic respect and courtesy they deserve?
Or perhaps it is just a case of poor online etiquette, indicating that most children are in dire need of learning social and computer ethics and behaviour norms. But who is to teach them these? I would have said ‘parents’, but the study shows that in 26% of the cases, parents played a role in abusing teachers, taking help of the anonymity the Internet offers!
What should parents do?
Teaching cyber ethics
Right from the time a child starts tinkering with the computer, start giving lessons on what is right and wrong. Just like you use a firm “NO” to stop a child from doing something undesirable, do so for anything you perceive to be unethical. For eg: reading someone else’s mail on the sly; sending anonymous messages to friends for the fun of it; joining a hate club etc. For further information, do refer to my blog post on cyber ethics.
Dashing off an e-mail/tweet to vent off anger might seem to be the easy way out at first, but later, you just might regret the words or tone of the letter and the repercussions. Furthermore, if the parents are in the habit of accusing teachers openly for perceived wrongs, what messages will they be giving their youngsters?
Instead, cool down, discuss the issue at home with the child, find out the problem areas, then fix an appointment with the Teacher, and take up the matter. If you are still not satisfied, take it up with higher authorities. This procedure will help you to achieve two goals: your child learns to behave responsibly and methodically, and you demonstrate that matters can be resolved better through direct communications. Think of the lifetime values you will be imparting to your kids.
Installing comprehensive security software
If you have a good software installed on all your internet-enabled devices, your parental control feature will inform you if the child has used inappropriate words in any written communication. This way, you will be able to keep tab on your kids’ online behaviour and correct them when they go wrong.
But I still maintain that the onus is on schools and educators to chalk out a plan to instil good cyber values and manners in children, so that they learn to be safe when online; respect the privacy of others’ as well as behave responsibly on social networking sites.