38% of teachers aware of sexual harassment among pupils

05 Apr 2018 Becca Cawthorne

This week NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union published research into pupil wellbeing, mental health and experiences of sexual harassment.

The research of over 1,000 UK teachers found that large numbers were aware of various forms of online sexual harassment in their schools. This included:

  • 38% saying they have been aware of pupils they teach sexually harassing other pupils in the last year
  • 86% saying they are aware of pupils sharing messages, photos or videos of a sexual nature with one another
  • More than one in ten (11%) saying they are aware of pupils capturing or sharing photos or videos up teachers’ skirts or down their tops in the last year
  • 70% saying they are aware of pupils being bullied online or via mobile phone outside the school day.

These findings highlight a need for education and increased reporting of online sexual harassment. For the past year, we have been working on a project to fulfil this need – Project deSHAME. This work aims to provide schools and youth settings with resources and advice to educate, respond to and prevent online sexual harassment amongst young people.

Project deSHAME

Project deSHAME is a collaboration between Childnet (a partner in the UK Safer Internet Centre), Save the Children (Denmark), Kek Vonal (Hungary) and UCLan (UK), co-financed by the EU.

It aims to increase reporting of online sexual harassment among minors and improve multi-sector cooperation in preventing and responding to this behaviour.

The project is centred on close collaboration with young people, there is a Youth Advisory Board in each of the three countries which advises and consults on every stage of the project. Similarly, to ensure consultation with a wide range of experts, there is also an Expert Advisory Board in each country consisting of representatives from industry, teachers, government, police, charities and other key stakeholders

What is online sexual harassment?

Online sexual harassment is unwanted sexual conduct on any digital platform, and it is recognised as a form of sexual violence. It encompasses a wide range of behaviours that use digital content (images, videos, posts, messages, pages) on a variety of different platforms (private or public).

It can make a person feel threatened, exploited, coerced, humiliated, upset, sexualised or discriminated against.

Project deSHAME specifically focuses on peer-to-peer online sexual harassment taking place between young people.

Our findings

As part of Project deSHAMe we conducted research of over 1,500 teenagers in the UK, finding that:

  • 23% of 13-17s said they have seen people secretly taking sexual pictures of someone and sharing them online – 10% admitted they have done this themselves.
  • Over half of UK respondents aged 13-17 years (51%) said they have witnessed people their age circulating nude or nearly nude images of someone they know, while 6% have been the target of this behaviour.
  • 12% of UK teens said their boyfriend or girlfriend had pressured them to share nude images in the last year, with girls being more likely to report this (14%) than boys (7%).

Resources for Teachers and Police

Project deSHAME will see the development of a range of education, training and awareness materials as well as practical tools for multi-sector prevention and response strategies. These resources will be piloted in Autumn term 2018, and will be launched publicly in early 2019.

If your school is interested in piloting the resources please contact ellie@childnet.com

Other advice and resources

There are a number of other resources and sources of support available now.

If you are concerned about online sexual harassment, you can speak to one of the helplines below. 

For young people

Encourage young people to speak to a trusted adult, they can also contact:

If you a young person is worried about online sexual abuse or the way someone has been communicating with them online, you can make a report to one of CEOP’s child protection advisors https://www.ceop.police.uk/safety-centre/

For teachers, police, social workers and other professionals

For adults

You can find more sources of support about relationship abuse on the Disrespect Nobody site. 

Educational resources

There are a range of resources that can help empower children and young people to use technology safely and positively and to develop healthy relationships both online and offline. 

Relevant resources include: 

  • Crossing the Line: A practical online safety PSHE toolkit from Childnet with films and lesson plans to explore online issues, including homophobic cyberbullying and sexting, with pupils aged 11-14 years old. 
  • So you got naked online? A guide from the South West Grid for Learning to help young people deal with issues relating to sexting. 
  • CEOP’s Thinkuknow resource library: Resources about healthy relationships and sexual exploitation and abuse.
  • Disrespect Nobody: Resources about healthy relationships and relationship abuse
  • Agenda: A young people’s guide to making positive relationships matters
  • Stonewall: Resources to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying and help create more inclusive spaces
  • Lockers: Resource from the Irish Safer Internet Centre about sexting and consent.

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