School children in Bristol are setting up TikTok accounts where videos are uploaded of teachers with inappropriate comments and imagery, causing ‘upset, embarrassment and worry’ for staff, police have warned.
After being made aware of the issue, BristolWorld found accounts set up for secondary schools in the city, some containing offensive content about staff.
While some posts uploaded to accounts appear innocent, others make fun of teachers, using videos and images of them with text and music which police say can be ‘offensive and inappropriate’.
The NASUWT teachers union has even warned that this latest social media craze, happening across the county, is leading teachers to quit the profession.
Avon and Somerset Police has taken a hard line on the issue, and has warned children uploading the posts that they could be committing a criminal offence under the Malicious Communication Act.
The force has also written to schools to make parents aware.
Working alongside Bristol City Council, officers put out advice which has since been published in a newsletter from Redland Green School.
It said: “Regrettably in some cases pupils and others have created offensive or inappropriate content.
“Many teachers and staff have sadly become target of the abuse, accusations or unwanted comment or imagery.
“This has caused a lot of upset, embarrassment and worry.”
Parents were asked to report any account or content their children find to TikTok, which can then remove it.
What Avon and Somerset Police say
Asked by BristolWorld if any police action had yet been taken against anyone, Avon and Somerset Police said not at present with cases flagged up being dealt with internally by schools.
A spokesperson said: “We’re aware of a national trend in which staff in educational establishments have been targeted in offensive and inappropriate content on the TikTok social media platform.
“Some local examples of this have been flagged to our schools engagement officers in Bristol.
“While no police action is being taken against individuals at present, we are keen for parents and carers to be aware that posting content deemed to cause harassment, alarm or distress could constitute a criminal offence under the Malicious Communications Act.
“As such, we are encouraging them to be mindful of their children’s social media use and to report any concerning content they come across to the platform.”
What teaching union NASUWT say
The teaching union said it was aware of the abuse of teachers via the TikTok platform.
It said the craze was leading to some teachers quitting the profession.
General secretary Dr Patrick Roach said: “If there is any evidence that companies like TikTok are actively promoting or inciting the abuse of teachers, this is wholly unacceptable and urgent action must be taken immediately by the Government.
“There is simply no excuse for abuse of teachers whose lives are being ruined as a result of the posting of malicious content on these social media platforms.”
What TikTok say
When approached by BristolWorld, TikTok said it was working hard to detect and remove violative content and accounts.
A company spokesperson said: “We regret the distress caused to some teachers as a result of abusive content posted to our platform.
They added: “While anyone can report inappropriate content in-app, we also partner with the Professional Online Safety Helpline to provide teachers with an additional way to report content, and we have committed additional funding for this service in light of recent events.
‘We have written to every school in the country to ensure all staff have access to the resources they need, and we’ll continue to work with affected schools, teachers, parents, unions and other partners to stamp out this intolerable abuse.”
People can report any misuse of TikTok by clicking here.