Social media is now a part of everybody’s lives. In fact, as of 2019 there are 3.48 billion social media users, according to the Global Digital 2019 report by Hootsuite and We Are Social.
As educators, who use social media for both professional and personal purposes, it can be tricky to know exactly how you should be employing the platform. With the majority of students ( and employers) now owning some form of social account, how can you ensure that you are productively building your professional network and engaging in interesting discussions whilst also maintaining appropriate professionality?
Whatever you put on your social media accounts reflects on you, so it’s important that you know how to use them properly and responsibly. Check out our tips to help you find your feet in the digital community.
— Kami (@usekamiapp) June 10, 2016
Do not post photos or videos that could damage your reputation
So, you went to this crazy party last night with your friends and had too much fun and way too much to drink, as all your Facebook photos clearly illustrate. Having fun, and showing it, is an authentic part of being human. But you may want to carefully consider which photos you post of the night’s festivities.
Any pictures which could be seen as unprofessional and don’t represent the values you vouch for in the classroom may make life difficult for you in the future. Prospective employers could find these photos and decide you are someone who is not responsible enough to fulfill their position. Always play it safe and only post photos that uphold the reputation you want, both personally and professionally.
Bear in mind that you may not be the only one putting photos on social media. If a friend has posted photos of you which you would rather not be seen, you can untag yourself and take them down from your wall. If you think they are particularly bad, you can also reach out to the friend and ask them to remove the photos totally from the site.
Do not post personal information
The key to safe social media use is remembering that once posted the information is available forever and could theoretically be accessed by almost anyone in the case of a system hack. For this reason, always be very cautious about posting any personal information that could make you vulnerable were it to fall into the wrong hands.
For example, don’t post photos of your house that clearly show your possessions or complete layout. Never post photos that contain sensitive personal information, such as your driver’s license, social security number, passwords, or any credit card numbers. Highly sensitive information like this can be used by online criminals to steal your identity, commit fraud under your name, or even break into your home.
— Kami (@usekamiapp) July 29, 2015
Do not trash-talk other people
Arguments, particularly those carried out through a keyboard, can get us riled up. However angry, abusive or downright mean tweets about others will do nothing for your personal or professional image. Instead, they make you appear petty and aggressive. Nobody wants to hire someone or work with someone, who is likely to display this behavior. If you have a problem with someone, don’t use social media to bash or shame them. It only ever succeeds in making you look small and insignificant.
Turn on your privacy settings
Limiting the audience that sees your posts is the best way to provide yourself with a reasonable amount of privacy.
When setting up your social media profile it is important to turn on your privacy settings. Almost all services provide some controls over who can see what you post. Some services, like Twitter, have universal settings that control all of your posts. Others like Facebook, allow you to control the audience for each individual post.
The best way to stay safe on social media is to limit your post visibility to friends only. The occasional public post (which anyone can access) may be okay, but you should carefully consider what goes into it.
If you want to learn more about the various privacy settings and how to use them, check out the https://www.connectsafely.org/podcast-safer-internet-day-2019-teachers-social-media/ podcast for more info.
— Kami (@usekamiapp) September 3, 2015
Should you interact with your students online?
As teachers, there are often questions about whether contact with students on social media is acceptable. There are no set rules around this, so here are some of our suggestions for navigating the situation:
- Where possible avoid interacting with students on social media: Because it remains such a grey area, the best way to ensure there are no issues is to simply abstain.
- Always check your school districts rules and policies: Make sure that you are always complying with all of the rules outlined within your district.
- If necessary use groups: If social media really is the best way to share work or ideas, setting up a ‘Group’ or ‘Page’ can allow you focused contact without the need to friend students.
- Consider a holding personal and professional account: To prevent students from seeing personal updates and insights, you may want to separate your and work-life into two separate accounts. Remember to ensure your personal account has privacy settings on, or anyone can see your posts.
— Kami (@usekamiapp) September 4, 2015
Protect your student’s privacy
Always be careful about posting photos of your students on social media. Regardless of whether your account is public or private remember that everyone has a right to control their online image – something which is particularly important for kids growing up in a digital world.
To avoid any issues, consider including a section in your school’s media release documents which asks whether parents are comfortable with their child’s image being posted on social media. Where very young students are concerned it’s a good practice to keep your social account private and tell parents they will need to request access and get approval before having the ability to view.
For older students, in addition to parental permission, make sure it’s OK with the students as well. Some of them might be concerned about their online legacy or take image privacy very seriously.
Think before you post
Before you comment or tweet something, think about the repercussions. Will it offend anybody? Do you have your facts correct? What do you want to accomplish by posting something like this? Something that sounded good a while ago can sound foolish and irresponsible after careful deliberation, so have a deep think before posting.
Social media is part and parcel of the modern world, and consequently the educational environment. To learn more about integrating technology into the classroom, check out our blog.