Teaching English online is a rewarding job that allows you the freedom to work from home. Most students are professional, respectful and there to learn but unfortunately, especially with adults, there are some risks. This post is a quick overview of some of the safety issues that teachers have raised concerning ‘chat on request’ platforms such as Cambly, especially for women.
Please note: these issues may be experienced on any of the platforms where a school or company cannot veto students before you take lessons with them. It is rare and I have never encountered it personally but “forewarned is forearmed”. Women (and men) should not have to face harassment or trauma at work. Before starting at these platforms, please consider whether this is something that you are willing to risk in order to make an income. If not, there are much safer options out there for you.
Casa Cultual’s video “Be careful with flashers: my experience while tutoring online” (above) is a personal recount of her experiences and she says that many issues are with ‘free trial’ students, who are entitled to a free 15-minute session with a tutor/teacher before signing up with the program. She shows you how you can turn off the ability for these trial students to see you, yet cautions that this will likely reduce the amount of calls you may receive. You can instead, check ‘Don’t show me video from free trial students until I turn it on’ and start the call with audio only. Once you have had a brief introduction and “feel that the student is serious”, you may then turn on their video. This gives you a greater degree of control over the situation. Students can also be reported and banned in order to stop them using the same account for the same behaviour.
Unfortunately, Christopher at Lessons Learned Abroad also had a ‘flasher’ expose himself to him during his time at Cambly, so male teachers should also take the above advice as well. This reddit thread from a Cambly teacher, echoes much of the same advice. After reading a handful of blogs about teachers’ experiences, flashers and harassment was the absolute minority and occurred very infrequently with most reporting it happening only “once or twice”. While rare, it does not diminish how unpleasant it can be.
I hope this helps anyone teaching online to avoid those rare perverts that ruin the experience that the overwhelming majority of students bring to the class. If you have any advice or experiences from other platforms that you would like to share and help others avoid, please comment below. Good luck everyone and stay safe!