Articles have peppered newspapers and blogs about the dangers of social networking sites to professionals, and particularly to teachers. In 2007, The Columbus Dispatch highlighted three teachers’ racy comments on MySpace. In 2008, The Washington Post took on the issue pointing to the dangers of leaving one’s Facebook profile open to “friends of friends.”
(Now would be a great time to follow AAE on Facebook or Twitter)
One solution to the dangers featured by these articles and many others is simply to avoid or cease all interaction with online social media. However, because “these websites are the bars and restaurants of our new era,” that hardly seems like a viable solution, particularly when individuals entering the professional workforce today have maintained social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, and personal blogs since they learned to type in the 4th grade.
A more practical solution is to add to our internet-usage mindset that phrase from the Miranda warning: “Anything you say can and will be used against you.” Here are a few general and school specific tips to consider as you assess your online profiles.
Ten Tips for Teachers for Staying Smart on Social Networking Websites:
- Google yourself. Your employer, coworkers, supervisors, kids, relatives, and friends have probably all done it already. You should know what is out there with your name on it.
- Report concerns you may have to the hosting website. Most social networking sites have reporting mechanisms so you can easily report problems, misinformation, hacked accounts, scams, phishing, or other concerns. You can also request that your information be removed from sites that may have it posted.
- Post only what you want the world (including your mother, your mother-in-law, your students, your spouse, your kids, your boss, your next door neighbor, everyone) to see.
- Set your privacy settings so that “only friends” can view your information. Other settings allow unknown individuals to view your information and may compromise the privacy of you and your family.
- Do not post things that may bring shame or embarrassment to you or your employer. Those photos of rush week, your best friend’s bachelor party, or even that weekend family reunion two years ago might be better left un-posted.
- Choose passwords that cannot be easily guessed so that your accounts are secure. Your kid’s names, your pet’s names, your birthday, and your address are common offenders that make your account easy to hack.
- Honor your school’s policy. If your school does not allow employees to use Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc, follow the policy–your job may depend on it. If your school does not allow the use of social networking sites, be extremely careful to keep your professional and personal interactions separated. Do not friend colleagues or interact with students via these sites.
- Use approved sites or sites provided by your school district for social networking when possible. These are great venues for educational and collaboration purposes.
- Do not post messages criticizing or airing your frustrations about your job, boss, coworkers, students, administrators, faculty, staff, or even school policies.
- Post only those things you would be comfortable sharing in front of a classroom. Before you post it, imagine one of your students bringing it up in class. If that thought makes you uncomfortable, don’t post it.
Social networking is a tool that can be used for your benefit or to your detriment. Consider the purposes of your social networking so that you can use it to achieve your goals.
Does your school have a rigid policy on social networking websites?