Social media can be a great tool in education. But it can also raise a lot of questions for educators in terms of social media ethics outside of the classroom. Here’s some best practices and things to remember as an educator when using your personal social media account.
Change Privacy Settings
A massive 2.41 billion users are on Facebook every month. In addition, Instagram boasts around 1 billion monthly users, and Snapchat hosts 203 million users every day. You’re probably one of the billions of people with a social media account. So it shouldn’t surprise you to know that the majority of your students are on those platforms as well.
That’s what makes privacy settings so important. Anyone can find your profile on a social network because of search features. So be sure to keep your account private on all your online profiles. You don’t want all parents and students to have open access to your private life. Once that boundary is crossed, it can be difficult to get back.
Beware of “Friending” Students
Most school districts don’t have specific policies that prohibit educators from adding students as friends on their personal social media account. But you should think twice before accepting a friend request or clicking “follow.” Even if you use your account appropriately, you could be opening yourself up to major issues if a student decides to use this online access improperly.
Some teachers set a strict rule for themselves that they won’t accept personal friend requests from students period. Others may decide that they feel comfortable adding them once they are no longer in their classroom or after several years. Whatever you decide to do, keep your online interactions courteous and professional. Your intentions behind a comment or message could be misconstrued, so be careful with what you write.
Report Inappropriate Online Behavior
If you do find yourself in a situation where a student sent you inappropriate messages online, explain to the student that the messages are inappropriate and must stop immediately. Then, notify a school administrator or supervisor of the situation. Even if you think you’ve handled the situation, report the online behavior so that administration can take the appropriate actions.
Also, make sure that you are familiar with your school district’s policy for electronic and online communication. Both students and educators are required to follow these guidelines, so keep your interactions in line with them.
Post with Caution
You should always post with caution, even if you don’t allow parents or students to follow you on social media. Photos you’re tagged in, posts you write, and comments you make can come back to haunt you.
We’ve all heard horror stories of educators who angrily shared their thoughts on hot-button issues and ended up losing their jobs over it. Or posted photos of themselves partying, only later to be questioned by a principal who had a parent reach out to them about it. So as a general rule of thumb, if you find yourself wondering “Is this ok to post?” chances are that the answer is no. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when dealing with anything online.
Finally, whether or not you are aware of it, you represent your school district. You’re also a role model for impressionable children. So remember to be respectful and carry the code of ethics with you even into your personal social media account.