Educators must be careful with their personal social media networks, especially if they interact with students or students’ parents. Some educators establish two accounts—one for personal use and another for professional use—while others keep their accounts locked down and accessible only to friends.
Sometimes, the best approach is found in knowing how not to use social media as an educator. Using real-world examples from actual teachers, Nielsen described actions best avoided when it comes to social networking and the classroom.
Here’s what NOT to do:
- Don’t “like” students’ personal photos
- Abide by school dress code in online spaces—don’t post pictures in which you’re dressed inappropriately
- Use discretion with social media profile pictures and cover photos
- Don’t post vacation photos online if you’ve called in sick that day
- Be aware of photos of you that are posted and tagged by others, and know how to control your privacy settings
- Don’t post or write negative comments about fellow staff, students, or families, even if it’s within a private group
Using social media to effectively engage students starts with knowing students’ passions, Nielsen said.
When educators know their students’ interests, what careers they’re interested in, and their goals, educators can help students form positive digital footprints and connect those goals to the social media channels that can promote success.
Online rules are changing, Nielsen noted. “That rule of ‘don’t meet strangers on the internet’ has evolved,” she said. “Do it wisely, and verify who the people are. But our students can make some amazing global connections online.”
Sometimes, educators run into roadblocks in the form of administrators or filters that prevent classroom access to social media tools. Educators could choose to maintain class pages or accounts outside of the classroom and connect with parents and students that way, while others have had success in showing administrators that secure, private social media pages or accounts can truly engage students.
Students without home internet access or access to devices are able to contribute to class groups or accounts when classroom access to social media tools is permitted, and this could help convinced administrators to allow such access.
Nielsen recommended that schools blocking social media access could connect with other schools or districts that allow such practices, in order to discover and see first-hand the benefits of a more open policy.
A survey from the University of Phoenix College of Education revealed that 80 percent of more than 1,000 K-12 teachers surveyed said they worry about implications or complications that might arise from interacting with students or parents on social media.
(Next page: Detailed survey results)