The use of social media within an education setting can bring many benefits and opportunities. Used appropriately, it can positively assist the entire school community by providing timely information (e.g. school closures due to adverse weather) and influencing online culture for good (e.g. celebrating accomplishments made by teachers and students).
You may already use social media in your private life! However, sometimes the distinction between ‘personal’ and ‘professional’ is hard to define. Without thinking about it, you may find that there are times when your personal social media use will impact the school and even present a safeguarding risk.
This is becoming such an issue for schools that guidance from Keeping Children Safe in Education urged schools to complete an online search on shortlisted teaching candidates. This includes asking candidates for their social media usernames. Results would then be discussed in final stage interviews.
Social media sites are public forums – regardless of whether you have a private or public account. When you are accessing and using social media, it is important that anything you post reflects positively on your position within your school. This includes not expressing any views on behalf of the school (good or bad), never posting comments, photos, or videos that reveal any form of workplace misbehaviour, and not adding any current student or their parents/carers as a ‘friends’ on a social media platform.
To protect yourself, review your settings on all the social media platforms you use. The following simple steps will help you and the school you work for:
- Take the time to read your school’s policy on social media.
- Set personal accounts to private.
- Limit who can see posts by only accepting requests from real friends.
- Never accept friend requests from pupils or their parents.
- Never link accounts.
- Never share a personal phone number or email.
- Never share a current location (if you want to tag yourself to a location, it’s wise to do it after you have visited that place)
If you are in a situation where you want to post something that could be considered a breach of conduct by your school, include a disclaimer such as, ‘the views expressed are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer’. However, even if this wording is used, your comments could still impact your role or the reputation of the school.
Remember – Online behaviour can have consequences. Don’t do anything online that you wouldn’t do offline!