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Social media use among teachers and students is very common, but that doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all. As a teacher, you need to be very careful about how you handle your social media accounts, particularly with regard to student access and contact.

If you plan to keep your social media accounts while you teach, you must be aware of what you shouldn’t do.

Post anything during class

Students taking a test? Not the time for a Twitter post. Put the phone away and don’t log in to a desktop account, either. You’re being paid to monitor the kids and teach them.

Mix business and personal

Are you teaching photography and want to create a class Instagram account? Already have your own Instagram account? Don’t mix the two. Make a new, separate account for class purposes (and show it to school administrators), and keep all personal posts off the class account.

Post anything kid-unfriendly

Everything you post has to be family-friendly. You have to assume parents and administrators can access to your accounts and are monitoring you. A post could always be seen by accident as social media companies occasionally change how their privacy settings work.

Make fun of your school or its people

Don’t insult your employer or anyone at the school. It’s rude and a terrible example for students. If you’re a teacher on social media, you need to take the saying “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” seriously.

Befriend your students except in limited cases with the school’s permission

In general, you want to avoid befriending or following your students on social media or allowing them to befriend or follow your account except in limited circumstances. The risk of something coming across as inappropriate, or of the students taking your posts and pictures and manipulating them as a prank, is too great.

  • Never follow a student on social media.
  • Never give a student access to your personal contact information, like a home phone number.
  • You can make your personal accounts private or locked (and still be cautious about what you post).
  • Find a relatively impersonal way to stay in contact with students for school business, such as a text list from a separate phone that you use only for school purposes.

There are times when you might want a way for students to meet online for class purposes. For example, if you’re leading a standardized-test-prep course for students at your school, you might have a Facebook group where everyone can ‘meet’ and help each other study without having to meet up in person. However, your school’s administration must give permission for this and have access to the group, list, or account, and you really should get the parents’ permission as well. It can worry parents to hear that a teacher has a group for students on social media, and it is better to tell the parents ahead of time what is going on. The group should also be private to protect students’ information.

Engage in real rivalry

So your school is having a fundraising drive, reading contest, bake sale or any other event, and you and your fellow teachers have all been jokingly posting (with the school’s knowledge) about how your class is the best at fundraising, reading or baking, and all the other classes need to watch out. That is a lot different than posting about how another teacher’s method for teaching math is not as good as yours.

Good-natured jokes during times that the school is aware that you and your colleagues will be in a race to accomplish a school-related goal may be fine in limited circumstances. But real rivalry that produces insults, passive-aggressive comments, and snark is not appropriate. It sets a bad example for the students and does nothing to further education. If you have problems with another colleague’s behavior or methods, take it to the principal- not Twitter.