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Pupils at a Somerset private school given lessons on how to avoid defamation on social media


By Gillian West, Social media manager

December 27, 2012 | 3 min read

A Somerset school has begun teaching its pupils how to avoid defaming people on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Many schools have already adapted their curriculum to include online safety and cyber bullying, the move by the private school in Taunton comes in the wake of the high profile Lord McAlpine case from earlier this year.

Pupils will now be taught about libel risks on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites. The lessons fall into the personal, social, health and economic, or PSHE, section of the national curriculum. The lessons will focus more on the basics of libel and defamation, including how to avoid being chased for compensation.

Carol Manley, a senior teacher at the school commented: "We then realised that actually this was becoming quite a serious issue with things like parties on Facebook, the sorts of traps students can so easily fall into. From there we've really tried to keep abreast of social networking.

"Being the wrong side of 50, I wouldn't profess to be an expert on Facebook, Twitter or anything else, but I'm very aware of how much the children use it. We've become increasingly aware as a school that university admissions tutors are now accessing Facebook sites to check up on students."

Manley continued: "Of course, celebrities tweeting the wrong thing is in a different league to us, but it highlights how easily you can get something horribly wrong. It's a good opportunity for us to say to the children, look, even something that starts off as a joke or something silly can actually get you into a lot of trouble. They're also being taught to not even forward anything like that.

"Students need to know that whatever they say may just come back to bite them."

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