Who Says Teachers Do Not Understand Social Media? Not TikTok

December 8, 2021

It can be difficult to keep up with what the kids are doing on video-sharing app TikTok, and much of it is just playful fun. However, here is an unnerving shift in direction—weaponized short videos being deployed against teachers and staff at schools in the UK. BBC News tells us about “TikTok School abuse: Teachers Quitting Over Pedophile Slurs.” Reporter Nicola Bryan writes:

“Some teachers are leaving the profession after being labeled pedophiles on TikTok, a union says. A craze on the social media app has seen children share videos of staff with inappropriate hashtags and comments and, sometimes, superimposing their faces onto pornography.”

See the write-up for a few examples. The situation is difficult because, while the children may be too young to fully understand the consequences of their actions, it is naturally causing staff and their families considerable angst. Neither of the schools have suspended any students—maybe because the content was posted anonymously. They are focusing instead on educating the children and, perhaps especially, their parents. But what is TikTok doing about the trend? A union representative states the company has been all talk and no action, and one school’s staff member reports it took a long time for videos to be taken down. However, another school’s head teacher says TikTok responded promptly to her school’s complaint. That is an odd inconsistency. The write-up quotes the company’s spokesperson:

“‘We are crystal clear that hateful behavior, bullying and harassment have no place on TikTok. We regret the distress caused to some teachers as a result of abusive content posted to our platform.’ She said the company had deployed additional technical measures and guidance and continued to ‘proactively detect and remove violative content and accounts’. She said the partner had partnered with the Professional Online Safety Helpline (POSH) to provide teachers with an additional way to report content and written to every school in the UK to ensure all staff had access to the resources they need.”

The Welsh government, for one, is not convinced TikTok is doing enough. Recognizing the seriousness of the issue, it demands TikTok remove this content immediately as it is reported. Will the company comply?

Cynthia Murrell December 8, 2021

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