There continue to be so many well publicized cases of people getting into terrible trouble for emails they sent or comments posted on social media. It’s remarkable that many teachers and public figures seem to have not yet learned to protect themselves. One can never be too careful.
Whatever is posted, is there forever. It can never be withdrawn. Regardless of privacy settings, social media platforms, and emails, are never really private. Those who have access to your “private” accounts can always copy and repost your material on a public platform.
Best practice regarding social media and email falls into three categories: maintaining professional boundaries; presenting oneself in a professional manner; and, perhaps surprisingly, avoiding blatantly illegal activity. That illegal activity is most often related to sexual involvement with students, luring or pornography – and is so obvious that it needs no further explanation.
Here are eight common guidelines that will allow educational professionals to maintain professional boundaries and present themselves in a professional manner:
- Only use official school email accounts or social media platforms to communicate with students or parents
- Don’t provide students with personal email addresses or phone numbers
- Don’t “Friend” or “Follow” students or their parents
- Never post or send students’ videos, photos or messages of a personal nature
- Use formal, professional, and courteous language when communicating with students and parents.
- Avoid profanity
- Never criticize students, parents, colleagues or administrators on social media or emails
- Don’t post or forward content, links or comments that might be considered offensive, discriminatory or unprofessional
If in doubt, here are two tests which should be helpful:
- Would you show it in the classroom?
- Would you want to see it, attributed to you, on the front page of the newspaper?
Teachers and administrators are expected to maintain the honour and dignity of their profession at all times – whether actively at work or in one’s so-called personal time. That means accepting the reality that there is no such thing as a “private” social media life.