Trolling in Online Classrooms – Keeping Safe in Remote Education
Many teachers are rising to the challenge of remote education and using live streaming platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Google Meet or Zoom to deliver lessons from home. Whilst this has created great opportunities, there can be disadvantages. One of the more troubling aspects is the increase in trolling and behaviour such as Zoombombing in online classrooms – the unacceptable practice of people disrupting with noises or comments or taking control of the screen and sharing unwanted (and sometimes highly offensive) content with the class.
It is unlikely that a member of your class would do this, but outsiders could potentially join your meeting if the link is shared on social media or other public forums. Passwords and other details of private online lessons may also be shared by students responding to requests for details on social media. This allows trolls to infiltrate and carry out disruptive behaviour such as shouting, swearing, threats, discriminatory comments or indecent images. Unfortunately, some think this is funny and there are a number of videos circulating on platforms like TikTok and YouTube, celebrating such behaviour and offering tutorials on how to do it.
As with most online behaviour, a combination of education and smart use of technology is the key. Your school behaviour policy may address issues of online behaviour, but it probably doesn’t anticipate this new situation. Children should be reminded about being good digital citizens and be aware of their responsibility to keep any passwords and meeting details private. Make sure they understand that when attending online lessons, school rules and sanctions apply. Remind them that their reputation and that of their school is at stake.
Make sure you understand the tools available to protect you on the particular platform you are using and install security updates as soon as they become available. Tools may include password protection, using a virtual waiting room to screen attendees before they join, locking meetings once a class starts, muting and/or turning off video for attendees, disabling private chat and locking screenshare for all except the host. If you are targeted by trolls, make sure you know how to act quickly to end the session immediately if something very untoward begins to happen.
It’s also worth mentioning some general advice about protecting your own privacy. We recommend that teachers are careful not to reveal personal information about themselves – so consider what can be seen in the background of your video – some platforms allow you to blur your background or select a background image. If there are others in your household who might be seen or heard in your workspace, remember to warn them that you are about to begin a lesson – perhaps put a notice on the door. Also, if using a personal device, think about what might be visible when screen sharing – is that screensaver appropriate, what other files, emails or tabs might be visible to your class?
Useful links for more detailed advice include:
UK Government advice, Safeguarding and Remote Education during Coronavirus (Covid-19) published 19 April 2020 https://www.gov.uk/guidance/safeguarding-and-remote-education-during-coronavirus-covid-19
This includes detailed advice on securing Google Chat, Google Meet and Microsoft Team as well as uploading videos to YouTube.https://blog.zoom.us/wordpress/2020/03/20/keep-uninvited-guests-out-of-your-zoom-event/