We all love social media – well, an estimated 2.2 billion of us do anyway! That’s right - over a third of the world’s population uses social networking.
We all need to be monitoring our online presence, as explored in our previous blog entitled ‘Helping children to use social media safely’. This holds true for teachers more than for any other group. Teachers come into contact with hundreds of children each day, a figure which can grow exponentially when you factor in their friends and family. That’s why it’s so important for teachers to safeguard their online presence, by thinking carefully about exactly how they want to portray themselves to the world and what methods they are going to take to make their profiles private.
Something that is important to many teachers is that they are not searchable on social media; meaning that a student, for example, would not be able to type their name into a platform’s search functionality and find them listed in the results.
A method that many teachers are using is to not use their real name on their social media platforms. This does not mean you have to make up an imaginary persona – simple steps like replacing your surname or first time with your middle name can be very effective in making you hard to find online.
The best way that a teacher can safeguard their online presence is to be very diligent about what they share and post on social media. By ensuring that anything that appears on your profile(s) is inoffensive and uncontroversial, it means that if anyone was to stumble across it there would not be any issues.
We spoke to Amy Taylor, a primary school teacher in Twickenham
“Protecting my online presence is an important part of keeping my professional and personal lives separate. I have nothing I’m ashamed of on social media, but I still don’t want parents seeing photos of me in a bikini on my holiday! Some people draw wrong conclusions from seeing teachers with a drink in their hand or even pages they ‘like’ on Facebook. I want parents and children to see me as Miss Taylor – not as Amy. I make sure that I monitor what I make public and how easy it is to search for me. I check my social media settings every so often just to check that my preferences are still the same, especially after app updates.”
Amy highlights that what you post may be normal and part of typical adult life, but it can still leave you open to judgment. This is particularly relevant now that we live in the age of the selfie! We know that going out and having a few drinks with friends (and posting the funny photos from the evening online) is nothing sensational, but some parents may not be so understanding.
There are a number of steps you can take to make your Facebook as private as possible. This includes hiding your photos and timeline from people who are not on your friends list, making your profile unsearchable even if someone has your full name and restricting your posts to specific audiences. This means if you post something personal you can create a custom list to share it with, such as your family. This article contains some more helpful Facebook privacy tips.
NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher)Nicole Dias, agrees that what you do and do not post is crucial; “I will make sure nothing is posted on social media that will in any way harm my image. It’s an important issue as children can get the wrong idea about you.”
It’s particularly relevant for Nicole, as she has started her career this September with a year 6 class and the children are likely to have their own smartphones and therefore access to the Internet.
She added, “I will not visit any social networking sites on school computers, so that I don’t risk the children seeing or having access to the information. I have realised that I must also consider my friends’ use of social media, as they may tag me in things. I will make sure that my close friends also have private accounts, and if they don’t, I’ll ask them not to tag me.”
Nicole highlights here the often forgotten reality that what your friends are getting up to online can have an impact on your own social media presence; if they tag you in posts or photos, they can show up on your own timeline but also put your name against specific activities.
Twitter is another commonly used platform, with around 310 million users each month. Luckily, there is a simple way to keep your Tweets private from the general public, and that is by choosing to “protect” your Tweets. Triggering this setting makes your Twitter feed invisible to anyone who is not following your account, and also means that you are able to individually accept or decline new follower requests. This is perfect for teachers, as it means that if you see a follower request from one of your pupil’s parents, you can choose to decline it and they will not gain access to your Tweets.
Facebook and Twitter are just two examples of some of the hugely popular social media platforms that we love to use today. However, the advice we’ve outlined in this blog is very transferable to other systems too. For example, you can make your Instagram pictures private to anyone other than your approved followers. If you’re a YouTube user you can make videos “unlisted”, so that only people with the link that you have shared with them can see what you’ve uploaded. This is perfect for teachers who have holiday videos or recordings of family occasions – anything they’d love for friends and family to see but don’t necessarily want the entire school community to be a part of!
Social media makes up some of our most used and most loved technology and there is no reason for teachers to miss out on the fun. By following some simple steps and making a few key considerations, you can easily be a part of it without compromising your private life.
And failing that, here’s a rule we like to follow…If it’s not something you’d share with your grandmother then it’s not something that should be on social media!
If you have any of your own social media privacy tips and tricks that you’d like to share with teachers or with anyone who wants to secure their online presence leave us a comment below to join the conversation.