ONE in seven teachers have been subjected to attacks on social media from parents, according to a new survey.

A poll of more than 1,000 members of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) also found a quarter said they a had a negative experience of social media with pupils.

Despite the concerns, 36 per cent of teachers said their school had no social media policy.

However, almost half described themselves as either “confident” or “very confident” when communicating online.

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Teaching unions said behaviour ranged from spreading gossip about teachers to threats of assault and in the most extreme circumstances threats of “mob justice” against staff and pupils.

A separate online poll conducted through the Facebook site revealed some disturbing abuse of staff with one teacher described on as a “nasty cow”and a “bitch”.

The Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS), which represents primary headteachers, said abuse on social media was “an area of growing concern” because online platforms allowed “uninformed and abusive voices considerable reach”.

Greg Dempster, general secretary of the AHDS, cited one case in which parents used social media to share information about a pupil they said was bullying their child.

He said: “This was quickly picked up by others, with some offering to beat up the ‘bully’ and others referring to the school and headteacher in derogative terms.

“The situation was dealt with robustly by local authority legal staff and police, but such support is not guaranteed everywhere.

“On one comparable occasion, a member was simply told to get a thicker skin.”

Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said social media was used by some to “bully and victimise”, but that online platforms could also be “enormously beneficial”.

That view was shared by some of the teachers surveyed by the Times Educational Supplement Scotland with one saying: “I’ve only had one really negative experience with social media and a parent, and the benefits for me far outweigh the risks.”

Ban Marder, a social media expert at Edinburgh University’s business school, said teachers should use pseudonyms and ensure settings are on “private” so they did not show up on search engines such as Google.

He said: “Teachers should not lose sight of the benefits of social media, such as the direct exchange of information between parents and teachers that Twitter can provide. However, a school Twitter account should be meticulously managed.”

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General Teaching Council for Scotland guidance on teachers’ use of social media will be updated later this year to reflect developments such as the increased use of Twitter and new apps.