Social media is a slippery slope to navigate when you are involved in education. You may believe what you post on social media is completely harmless so even if you have “friended” parents and past students, then it won’t be a big deal. However, if I have learned anything in today’s society, it is this: Anybody can be offended by anything nowadays. Social media keyboard warriors make it a point to find something wrong with everything. Because of this, here are a few tips on navigating your social media use.
Choose Your Social Media Sites Wisely
If you are an educator, there are safer social media sites than others that you can create an account for. Twitter is fairly safe as only short comments are allowed (tell that to Roseanne). But one wrong statement could do you in if you are not careful. Facebook can be dangerous as even those who you aren’t friends with can often come across your postings. Plus, that “innocent” picture of you on there doing shots with your friends while in college could come back to haunt you. Pinterest and LinkedIn may not allow you to be as personable as you want on social media, but they are generally inoffensive social media sites to use.
Should You Even Think About Adding Parents and Past Students?
There are those in education that swear by the rule of not adding past students as friends on social media until they have at least graduated from high school. I believe this is a good way to manage it. If students add you before then, just don’t delete their friend requests. Simply wait until they have graduated and then add them.
Adding parents of students seems perfectly fine, but it is a move that you might regret later on. One or two good parent-teacher conferences with a parent does not make them your friend. In fact, they may only be liking you because their child is one of your students and they are trying to play nice. If they add you as a friend on any social media site, be very wary as they could use things against you if your relationship sours.
Don’t Post Anything Controversial
Not only should you not post anything controversial, but you shouldn’t even “like” anything on social media that is debatable. Someone is going to be offended and will eventually make your professional life difficult because of it. I have known several educators that have been called into an administrator’s office for something they have posted on their social media profile. Nothing is worse than having a Masters in Education and being told by a principal that you are not being smart with your social media.
Keep the Pictures You Share Rather Boring
Keep in mind that any picture you share on social media can fall into the wrong hands. It does not matter if you set it to be privately shared with only your friends. Pictures on social media have a way of popping up for everyone to see. I have spoken with educators and read articles about how photos on social media have come back to haunt certain teachers.
You may have the best picture of yourself on the beach where you are in your swimsuit and the sun is hitting you just right that you appear to be a model in some swimwear advertisement. It couldn’t hurt to share it, could it? Well… do you mind if every parent of your students sees this picture year after year? You might be a bit mortified to know that the picture will get shared by kids and adults often.
You may not be a famous celebrity known all over the world, but you are a celebrity in your local town when you are a teacher. Walking into the supermarket as an educator can have several heads turning as current and past students come running up to you to say hello. This is one of the best feelings as a teacher, knowing that you have made an impact on their lives and they still remember you. But it is a double-edged sword. You must take the good with the bad. That means playing it safe on social media sites at least until you retire. After that, let loose if you want. Or better yet, spend the time with your kids and grandkids instead. When your life is nearing its end, I don’t believe you will utter the words on your deathbed, “I wish I would have spent more time on social media.”