Social Media Pitfalls for Educators
Social media use by educators can be a tricky proposition. In presentations to teacher groups, I quote a public relations professional from Virginia named Steve Edwards. He said, “Nothing is more powerful than a teacher in a grocery store line.” What that means is that what teachers say carries more weight than what principals, superintendents, or PR people say. Because after all, those people are paid to say nice things about the district. But the teacher will give it to them straight. That idea carries over to social media. When it comes to a school community. for better or worse, everyone knows everyone else’s business. Like it or not, when a teacher posts and comments on social media there will be people who see that educator as a representative of the school. That’s not good or bad, right or wrong, it just is.
How do you deal with this in a way that protects your professional reputation and the reputation of your school district?
Consider establishing a professional social media account that is separate from your personal account. Do not link the two. On the professional account you post photos and video of your students, share links to educational web sites, and repost memes that support a lesson you’ve taught.
However, just because you have a professional account doesn’t mean that it’s fair game to do what you want on your personal account. Creating a professional account and setting your personal account to private does give you a level of protection as an educator. But remember, nothing on the internet is truly private. Be careful if you post selfies from a wild party, get into an online argument over politics, or repost inflammatory memes that haven’t been fact checked. These could come be seen by your student’s parents and your administration. While these posts are within your first amendment rights, it’s important to remember that even off hours you are seen as a representative of your district and school.
To put it another way, from the public’s viewpoint is there a no difference between the online personal you and the online professional you. Please act accordingly.