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Surviving Social Media: Educator Rules for Personal Use of Facebook and Twitter

 

After his first day of work as superintendent of the Windsor Locks school system, Brian Telesca went home – and as many people do – posted a comment about his day to his Facebook page. That comment, which described his spending that first day “counseling an administrator to retire or face termination” ultimately led to his suspension and eventual termination.

Stories like Telesca’s are becoming more and more common and teachers and administrators across the country have gotten into trouble because of what they posted on social media sites including, but not limited to, Facebook and Twitter. As a teacher, administrator or school official, it’s important to realize that anything posted on a social media site–even when you think you are only posting to your friends and family–may become more public than you intended.

Because of that, anyone who works in a school should consider living by the following set of social media rules.

  1. Consider everything you write completely public: Never post anything on a social media site that you wouldn't want everyone you know to see. You might think that Facebook picture from the bachelor party where things got a little out of hand is only going to your college buddies, but once you post it, you lose control of where it might end up. If you don't want your students, their parents or your co-workers to see something, don't post it.
  2. Remember that Twitter is a public medium: Not only can anyone subscribe to your Tweets on Twitter, anyone can also see who you are following. So if you don't want your students, parents and co-workers knowing that you follow both Miley Cyrus and the Insane Clown Posse, it’s best to not be on Twitter under anything close to your own name.
  3. Consider having multiple accounts:  Facebook and other similar sites that allow you to pick and choose who sees certain information have lots of valuable uses. That said, even if you are very careful with what you post, you may not want to have your co-workers and members of the community see what you post to old high school friends or your family. As long as you have multiple email addresses (free services like Hotmail and Gmail work great for this), you can have multiple accounts.
  4. Remember that humor is subjective: One person’s hilarious joke is the next person’s offensive comment. Be very careful posting funny comments, as a misinterpreted attempt at humor can easily get you into hot water.
  5. When in doubt, don't do it: Amazingly, whole generations of Americans survived, even thrived, for years without posting their every thought on the Internet. If you have even a tiny doubt about the appropriateness of a comment, you are better off not posting it.

Remember that as a teacher, administrator or school official, whether you like it or not, you are no longer entirely a private citizen. You are a representative of your school and your community, and that means living up to certain standards.

 

Article by Daniel B. Kline, EducationWorld Consultant
Education World®    
Copyright © 2011 Education World

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