Teachers and social media: how to stay safe

TES Institute Team

4th August 2016 at 09:45

Teachers and social media: how to stay safe

At the end of 2015, Facebook announced that they have now passed 1.5 billion monthly active users. If the social network was a country, it would be larger than China. Along with other social media giants like Twitter and Instagram, these social platforms have become so engrained in our personal and professional lives that it has become difficult to ignore.

For teachers, social media can be a great source of knowledge and resources, providing a place to learn and share with thousands of likeminded professionals. But it can also be a place that can damage reputations if not managed correctly. We’ve collated some best practice tips for teachers to stay safe online.

How private are your social media platforms?

Get familiar with how the privacy settings work for all accounts that you use in order to put yourself in control of your online life. Most social media channels allow you to tailor the visibility of your account and should give you the option to choose who can see the things that you post, comment on, or engage with. To add an extra layer of security some teachers will use a nickname or their first name and middle name for their profile to make it harder for pupils to find them.

You can check your settings here Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube.

How strong is your password and security?

If your password is "123456", "password" or “qwerty” then you’ve chosen one of the most commonly-used passwords of 2015, and thus potentially one that is most likely to be guessed or hacked. Losing access to your social media and the content shared and stored on there could be avoided by setting up a strong password that will keep your account safe.

Do you know everyone that you’re friends with?

As friend and follower counts grow, it can be difficult to know exactly who is seeing your social media activity. As a general rule, you should never accept friend requests from pupils or parents. Most platforms allow you to differentiate between personal friends and professional acquaintances through the various settings available. When it comes to connecting with other teachers, make sure their profile is real before accepting requests or granting them access to your profile.

Think before you post or share anything

Whilst it seems obvious, it is important to remember that everything you post or engage with can be seen by others both now and in years to come, so being aware of your social footprint is important. Approving posts or images that you are tagged in before they appear on your timeline is an easy way to stay in control of what other people are posting about you too.

Further advice, help and support

There is a plethora of information online about staying safe online and if you find yourself in a situation where you need further advice, the UK Safer Internet Centre offer a helpline as well as a range of resources for both pupils and education professionals.