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Oi, teachers, leave YouTube alone

As my colleague Simon recently pointed out, UK schoolteachers are leading a call to get websites such as YouTube closed down.

Why? To stop bullies targeting children and school staff online, the teachers say. Now stand up straight and take your hands out of your pockets.

According to harassed educationalists at the PAT (Professional Association of Teachers), cyber-bullying allows obnoxious teens to continue their abuse after school, via SMS text messages or emails. (Both more efficient methods of delivery than catapult.)

Delegates at the PAT's annual conference in Harrogate recounted stories of bullies posting mobile phone videos on websites, showing teachers as well as pupils being attacked or humiliated. (Well, if you will call yourself PAT...)

At this point, I'm with the teachers. No-one should be intimidated at work (except perhaps lions in a circus), and the world needs good teachers. Somewhat ambitiously, however, PAT delegates have backed a motion demanding that websites - including Google's YouTube video-sharing giant - be closed down. And I reckon the scribes are on their own on that one.

Clearly this is a serious issue. Every advance in technology allows bullies to invade the parts of victim's lives that doling out wedgies and nicking lunch money just can't reach (it has been a while since I was at school). But I'm not convinced that the teaching industry does itself any favours by attacking sites that carry the bullying messages. (Surely the history teachers are aware of the concept of 'shooting the messenger'?)

YouTube, MySpace and all the others have a definite responsibility to police their content. But you won't stop pupils attacking teachers in this way until the kids rock up at school with a modicum of respect for their elders and betters (in my experience, today's teens use the word 'respect' to mean anything but). And that has to come from home.

Blaming YouTube for pupils' behaviour is akin to prosecuting the city of Sheffield for the increase in knife crime (and that is one place that has suffered enough. Even before the floods). I suspect that even Grange Hill legends Mr Bronson and Bullet Baxter would have struggled to control children who are taught from the cradle not to respect authority. (Although Danny Kendal could have been lethal with a mobile phone.)

So teachers, I salute your efforts to control the unruly yoot. But lay off the technology, it's just not YouTube's fault.

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