Managing social media as a teacher | Supply Teaching | PK Education

Managing social media as a teacher

The end of the academic year is nigh, and with it often comes the question of when is it appropriate to accept pupils or former pupils or even their parents as friends on social media platforms?

Managing social media in any professional context can be a nightmare, never mind when safeguarding and young people are involved. A risqué photo or unprofessional comment on social media channels like Facebook or Twitter could put your career in education at risk.

During the holidays, there is the temptation to let our guard down. You’re away from school so does it matter if you post a picture of yourself drinking shots off a bar in Magaluf or tell the world that you’ve had a nightmare class and don’t like your boss? It does matter, so beware! One inappropriate post on social media could be the end of your career in education.

If you work in a school or educational environment involving young people, then we’ve put together our top tips to help you to manage your online presence during the summer break and beyond.

  1. Check your privacy settings – The first thing you should be checking is who can see the content of your social media channels. Across all social media platforms, ensure that you know exactly who can see what you post, be it friends only, friends of friends, public or otherwise.
  2. Remain professional – Even if your account is set to friends only, be aware that anything on the internet can be shared in one way or another. Your friends could share your post with their friends and so on. All of sudden, your post isn’t just limited to your friends anymore. If it’s not something you would show your employer, or your nan, don’t post it!
  3. Posting times – If you’re posting in the early hours of the morning or very late at night, then the chances are alcohol is involved. Consider deleting the app from your phone on a night out to avoid any unfortunate posts or simply don’t mix excessive drinking and social media. Similarly, during term time, don’t post during school hours. Remember that social media is often used as a way for potential employers to screen candidates and be conscious of how you are portraying your work ethic.
  4. Separate professional and personal – If you have a hobby or a project (such as photography, for example), that you think your students would benefit from seeing – that’s fantastic. Just be sure that your professional life is separated from your personal. Having both a professional account and a personal account is becoming increasingly common. That way, you can have your professional profile as public and allow anybody to view and follow you, without risking that overlap that could cause issues in the workplace.
  5. Talk to students about social media – It’s a huge part of life nowadays. Encouraging a healthy relationship between young people and social media is incredibly important. Just remember, talking about social media and talking about your social media are two different things.
  6. Be careful who you tag and who tags you – If you have fellow colleagues on your social media, and you tag them in a post, it can be viewed as a reflection not only on you but on them too. Be aware, as well, that they could have anybody on their friends list. Similarly, be wary when you are photographed by friends for their social media channels. If you wouldn’t be happy having a photo on your feed, then don’t let them post it on theirs!
  7. Know the guidelines – Make sure that your social media practices are in line with the guidelines of your school. If you work on a day-to-day basis, or visit several schools, making sure that you are compliant in each can be hard work. We suggest complete lock down – friends only, no public posts – protect yourself. Is that beach snap worth potential aggravation with a school?
  8. Don’t take chances – Possibly the easiest rule to follow with social media is only post something that you would say, or show, in class. If the image you are sharing is not something that would be appropriate in a school, it’s perhaps best to leave it offline. Last year, a secondary school teacher from Ousedale School in Newport Pagnell, near Milton Keynes was suspended for posting a ‘provocative’ selfie on Facebook. Of course, your social media is your own, but we always take the approach of ‘better safe than sorry’!
  9. Be careful who you like and follow – Be wary of friending pupils past or present or their parents on Facebook. Remember, past pupils may still be friends with current pupils. Where parents are concerned, the line between professional and social can get blurry. Another risk of friending pupils and parents is online bullying. A survey by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, found that one in five teachers had been subjected to abuse online. This may have been in the form of derogatory comments and in some cases had affected their teaching careers.
  10. Don’t make disparaging remarks Don’t write nasty comments about your students, their families or colleagues, even if you think you’re doing it in private. In 2016 three US teachers lost their jobs after a private chat between themselves on a messaging service, in which they insulted pupils, was leaked. In 2011 three teachers from Westcott Primary School, Hull, as well as the head teacher were investigated after they made derogatory comments about people in east Hull as part of a Facebook conversation. Copies of the chat were printed out and attached to fences in streets surrounding the 250-pupil school.

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