"Profound" James O'Brien caller reveals shocking realities of social media in schools

18 February 2020, 11:52

This teacher called in to James O'Brien to reveal the "dehumanising" reality of social media in schools and after the tragic news about Caroline Flack, she insisted online abuse has "gotten out of hand."

Sarah said that while she was at school, an insult or crossed word between friends was solved in the moment. However, with comments now memorialised online for all to see, there are not immediate consequences, or consequences are elongated as young people are publicly vilified.

"Now everything is online you don't see anyone's reaction or how they're feeling and you can say what you like without any consequence," she said.

"We've just found so many problems now happen at home on the students' phones and they bring them to school and actually the consequence happens the next day once they realise what they say online has actually hurt a number of students at school."

Before phones, she said, children would have an argument at school and go to the teacher and it'd be "over and done with."

"Now other people are drawn into arguments online and it becomes blown up," Sarah said, "it's not just between two people it then becomes between WhatsApp groups of 11 year olds with about 70 kids in from different schools."

TV presenter Caroline Flack tragically took her own life last week and many attributed online abuse as a contributing factor
TV presenter Caroline Flack tragically took her own life last week and many attributed online abuse as a contributing factor. Picture: PA

James observed this is dehumanising and when he was a showbiz reporter, he would forget celebrities were real people, and "now the internet has turned school children into the same. That's quite a profound insight."

"We've forgotten the fundamental humanity of the people we're attacking," he said, not just in wide current affairs such as immigration but in micro instances such as one schoolchild at home.

The teacher countered that if a child doesn't have a phone they're excluded from a lot of social plans meaning parents often give in and said it is "out of hand."

She reflected on how sad she felt about Love Island presenter Caroline Flack, who had received torrents of abuse on social media and many have said was the source of her suicide, and Sarah posited that the only solution she could think of was either disallowing people to make comments.

"It needs to stop it's just so awful."