Happy New Year everyone!
This is an excellent time to reflect on our own personal use of social media, possibly after we’ve given our accounts a work out over the Christmas/New Year period. It’s really, really easy to overshare or to upload things we may regret later. Perhaps this doesn’t matter if we aren’t teachers, however we hold a position of responsibility in the community (whether we like it or not).
Every state’s education department will have policies and guidelines on their website for you to read. Each individual school should also have their own policy. Ask the principal to point you in the right direction. It’s really worthwhile having a quick read of these documents in order to prevent you from getting into trouble later.
In general, anything that contradicts mainstream educational pedagogy or extreme views on any topic is a no go. Don’t think this information won’t get fed back to your school – it will! Some people with too much time on their hands like to go digging and are happy to drag down someone else to make themselves feel better. I’m not going to get into the whys here, just suffice to say it’s advisable to not advertise in any way anything that might be construed as controversial. For example, ‘liking’, ‘following’, ‘sharing’, ‘tweeting’ ‘joining’ a group/business/individual that may be a bit sensitive. Education departments cannot outline every SM platform or controversial viewpoint; it’s up to you to determine. If in doubt, ask someone you trust.
If you are just beginning your teaching career, it’s a good idea to have a chat with more experienced teachers about their experience and thoughts regarding personal social media use. Ask for their input and advice.
When I began to teach I thought I was being careful, however my first year out coincided with an explosion of SM platforms and I don’t think I truly understood ramifications and consequences. Sure, I had my privacy on Facebook on the highest setting possible and friends were unable to tag me without my permission. I knew enough to not post bikini or drinking photos and to not ‘friend’ school parents. Where I fell over though was I did not consider that being social media friends with colleagues could be dangerous. I mistakenly assumed teachers would have the same standards and settings as me. No!! I commented on a work colleague’s status update and things blew up from there. I forgot that my comments on another person’s status update could be seem by all their friends and by all the friends of everyone else who commented or liked. My comment in itself wasn’t too bad – it was truthful but probably a bit too honest. I was anonymously reported to the principal who had to seek advice from the region as to my consequences. I immediately deleted all colleagues and even withdrew from FB for awhile. The first few days I was a mess! Luckily for me the department had much bigger fish to fry and my little (massive in my life) mistake was ignored. I was petrified I’d have an official note put in my records, tarnishing me for future employment prospects. BIG LESSON LEARNED!
After many years teaching, here are my top tips for SM standards:
- Do not follow/friend students. Believe me, they’ll try from Grade 3 onwards. Don’t!!
- Do not follow/friend parents. In some cases I was friends outside of school with parents as my daughters attended the same school that I taught in. If a request for SM friendship/following was sent, I sent them a message saying no and that when their youngest finished at my school I was happy to be friends with them.
- Change your name slightly. This makes it harder for parents and students to search for you.
- Sensible profile picture. Choose something really innocuous such as a landscape or sunset. If you want a photo of yourself, make sure it’s really tasteful!
- Use the highest privacy settings. If someone is to find you, they would be able to see nothing of your accounts.
- Permission to tag. Anytime someone wants to tag you, an alert email is sent and you can add or not.
- Do not allow people to write on your wall. You never know what they’ll write! They can private message you if they need to contact you.
- Choose your colleagues to follow carefully. Spend some time getting to know them before you add. I am friends online with very few colleagues and it works well.
- Don’t belong to any controversial groups. Self explanatory I hope!
- Do a spring clean. Is there anyone you follow/friends with who has extreme views? Anyone a bit dodgy or sneaky? If in doubt, cull.
- Before you upload, share, retweet anything, think about what message this is sending.
- Don’t upload pictures of students. You are asking for trouble here, especially if there is any identifying information.
I hope you aren’t took freaked out with all the ‘Do Nots’ included in the list above. A teacher can have a very rewarding and healthy social media presence. You just need to think about it a little bit more than the average employee!
If you have a horror story like me, I’d love to hear from you. How did you cope?
The next article will be about using social media effectively in the classroom.