Teachers and school staff across the UK are at risk of “burnout”, warns the UK Safer Internet Centre (UK SIC), with exposure to cyberbullying and online harassment from pupils having a “hugely detrimental” impact on their mental health wellbeing.
With its annual helpline report set to launch later this month, the UK SIC is keen to raise awareness that members of the “children’s workforce” are in need of support to help them deal with the psychological impact of the threats encountered on the internet.
The UK SIC itself hosts a national helpline dedicated to helping teachers, school staff, early years practitioners, police, carers, and more deal with online safety and safeguarding issues. Delivered in partnership with SWGfL, Childnet and the Internet Watch Foundation, the helpline grants members of the children’s workforce access to advice, guidance, resources and interventions to promote internet safety.
Launched in 2011, the helpline is operated by SWGfL and co-founded by the European Commission. It administers independent and confidential advice on issues such as cyberbullying, gaming, grooming, sexting, inappropriate internet conduct, digital privacy and reputation management.
The report reveals that, in the last 12 months, the helpline has handled 844 unique cases, amounting to 1,895 client interactions. Of those clients, the majority who made contact (67%) were teachers.
The report shines a light on the dwindling mental health and wellbeing of teaching staff in UK schools, confirming that almost half (47%) of the cases relate to issues directly affecting professionals, largely regarding incidents of bullying and harassment perpetrated by students, or reputational issues deriving from allegations, reviews or complaints made online.
“These professionals are at the forefront and, every day, are doing their best to protect children and keep children safe. But they need supporting too” – David Wright, SWGfL
David Wright, Director of the UK SIC and SWGfL, commented: “One of the most notable findings of this report was the hugely detrimental impact that both of these issues had on professionals’ mental health.
“Much thought has been rightly given to children during this difficult period, but we should not forget the incredibly important role of those struggling to support children at this time with very difficult and trying issues that [are] clearly impacting on their mental health.”
Wright believes that the report’s conclusions have serious implications, demonstrating the urgent need to tackle the abuse and stresses teachers so regularly face.
“These professionals are at the forefront and, every day, are doing their best to protect children and keep children safe. But they need supporting too.
“Some of the issues they come up against are incredibly complex and, without proper support, I fear for the mental wellbeing of these vital professionals.
“Now, more than ever, we are reliant, as a society, on the internet. It has been an absolute lifeline during the coronavirus lockdown, and will continue to be as the world adapts to an uncertain future.
“We need to make sure our professionals working with young people know there is help out there, and that they can reach out and get the support they need before it is too late.”
The UK SIC helpline is free to use and available to all UK professionals working with children.