Teachers in Birmingham are being advised to open a Facebook account – to stop pupils cloning their identity.
Staff at city schools have been staggered to discover their pictures and biographical details on the social networking site. But embarrassment turns to anger when they read rude comments about fellow teachers and pupils supposedly posted by them.
The trend is the work of “challenging” children who cause trouble by setting teachers against each other, according to city council IT expert Andy Pyper.
He is urging all teachers to get on to Facebook, in order to stop hackers using their name to set up a bogus account.
Mr Pyper told a scrutiny committee it was “ridiculously easy” for young people to set up false Facebook and Twitter accounts, using other people’s details.
And he revealed that children as young as six or seven are turning up at school equipped with mobile phones with internet connections.
Mr Pyper recalled that a head teacher attended a conference where he was challenged by staff about remarks on his Facebook account. It turned out that the head had never opened a Facebook account, but someone else had done so in his name, Mr Pyper added.
A photograph and accurate biographical details had been used, so that the account appeared to be above board.
Cyber bullying is on the increase in Birmingham, with children using the internet to threaten and ridicule classmates, and teachers.
Child victims of bullying often fail to tell their parents because the “knee jerk reaction” is to take their computer away, the committee was told.
Mr Pyper, of council IT provider Service Birmingham, said that parents were setting a bad example in many cases. “They get on Facebook and fall out with people and publish video clips of what they have been getting up to at the weekend,” he said.
“ We have had examples of parents getting on to Facebook and adding to the bullying of children. We have even had parents using Facebook and pretending to be their son or daughter, adding comments about teachers or other children.
“I am advising staff to get on Facebook, with the appropriate privacy settings, and if they haven’t done so I ask why not?”