For teachers, social media can be a dangerous space
You’ve been waiting for your annual girls’ weekend getaway for more than a month, and stocked up on your favorite wines to enjoy at the beach. Sunday comes around and you post the “before” shot from Friday, followed by the results of the weekend — lots of empty wine bottles. Seems harmless, right?
Not so fast, if you’re a teacher.
“Social media can be a landmine for teachers,” says Bettina Davies, an attorney at Cauthorn Nohr & Owen and a network attorney for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators for more than 20 years. “The definition of public behavior is very broad for teachers, and care must be taken.”
Here are some ideas teachers need to keep in mind:
1. Nothing is private.
Even if your social media pages are set to “private,” you have to assume that your students and their parents will see what you’ve posted. While all social media platforms have privacy settings, nothing can protect you from a screenshot from a local group or a notification on a mutual friend’s page. And that’s just a few examples of how your personal life can become public online — quickly.
2. There’s no such thing as personal time.
Teachers are held to a different standard. Your actions outside of the classroom can cause you to lose credibility in the classroom. If you are viewed as having lost effectiveness in the classroom, you are vulnerable to suspension or dismissal. To help avoid this, do not tag your location at school, or list your school as your employer.
3. Control your audience (as much as possible).
Don’t add your students or their parents on any social media platform. While some platforms allow you to choose who you are friends with, others like Pinterest or Twitter will require you to block or hide any curious students. Some teachers opt to use only their first names or other names. While that may keep students from tracking you down online, it is not free-license to post anything you want. Again, teachers are held to a higher standard.
“Teachers have to think about every online presence they have, from Facebook to dating sites,” says Ms. Davies. “Teachers can argue that it’s not fair, but for better or worse, it’s the reality they live in today.”