One of the questions we get asked most by teachers is regarding internet safety and using social media responsibly. Of course, no teacher wants students to see pictures of him the worse for wear after a night down the pub (#awkward), swanning around on Tenerife in a mankini (we’re not judging) or Morris Dancing (now we are judging).
The General Teaching Council of Wales have published a set of hints and tips to help teachers stay safe. While not being a definitive list they are a good place to start. Numbers 4-17 are less obvious and definitely worth a look.
1. Adhere to school/local authority/government policies and guidelines
2. Adhere to the Teaching Council’s Professional Code of Conduct.
3. Make use of existing guidance about e-safety and the use of electronic / social media. As well as policies, procedures and guidelines referred to above, there is a lot of good advice available, for example from teacher unions.
4. Maintain a formal, courteous and professional tone with pupils and ensure that professional boundaries are maintained.
5. Do not exchange private phone number. email, text, photos with pupils*.
6. Decline pupil* initiated friend requests and do not instigate any. Use discretion with parents**.
7. Act online in a way that does not call into question your position as a professional.
8. Realise that pupils will be curious about your personal life.
9. Manage your privacy settings, especially for photos.
10. Ask others to remove any undesirable content about you from their pages.
11. Audit and re-evaluate information about you regularly.
12. Note that potential employers, pupils, parents and others may Google you.
13. Remember that online conversations may not be private, for example, a post on a forum.
14. Do not discuss pupils, parents or colleagues online or criticise your employer.
15. Use strong passwords and change them regularly.
16. Bring any concern you have to the attention of your employer.
17. Be mindful of how you present yourself online e.g. when writing a profile about yourself.
* This includes ex-pupils… even if you taught them many years ago.
** We would go so far as to say that you shouldn’t befriend parents online either; unless they were close friends before you taught their children.