The verb is so new that Merriam-Webster online can’t turn up a definition. But it’s so prevalent that one in five teachers say that they have fallen victim to it or know someone who has, according to a new survey from the Norton Online Family Report.
Cyberbaiting. Not to be confused with “cyber bait,” a noun that refers to online scams. Cyberbaiting, the verb, “is when students irritate or ‘bait’ a teacher until the teacher gets so frustrated they yell or have a breakdown,” according to Norton. Then, students record the outburst with their cell phones and later post the video or audio online.
The two most recent, high-publicity cases in the U.S. include a 14-year-old disabled student in Ohio, who was verbally abused by her teacher and a teacher’s aide. After multiple reports to school officials – to no avail – the girl’s parents sent her to school with a recording device and caught the statements on record.
“Are you that damn dumb? You are that dumb?” the aide says.
The second case surrounded a New Jersey video, shot from the phone of a 15-year-old special needs student, who was called a “tard” by his teacher during a three-minute recorded rant. He even threatens the student: “I will kick your (expletive) from here to kingdom come.”
In each situation, the student’s word wasn’t believed until the recordings came to light. So it’s hard to argue that cyberbaiting was harmful in either case. (And how often are teachers really losing their cool in class?)
In addition, these situations were unprovoked, although they involved recording a teacher, who was unaware, and distributing the recording publicly. So it begs the question: At what point does the threat of cyberbaiting change the way you teach or deliver instruction? Do you lose your candor? Do you hold back when you should be scolding a wrong? How does this affect rapport with your students?
Teachers, do your schools or districts have policies – or given its relatively new presence, unspoken rules – on the issue?