Poll: Half teachers fear Facebook

18th September 2009 at 01:00
But two-thirds still use social networking sites despite pupil privacy worries

Nearly half of teachers are worried that using social networking sites will give pupils access to their personal information, a study has revealed.

The poll, conducted by Teachers TV, found that 47 per cent of the education workforce fears that their personal life could be tapped into by their pupils via their Facebook profiles.

More than 4,000 teachers responded to the survey, which showed that despite the fear of personal information falling into pupils' hands, more than two-thirds of teachers regularly use social networking sites - 96 per cent of whom use Facebook.

Two-thirds of respondents said they used Facebook to keep up to date with education news, while 81 per cent said they used the site to network with other education professionals.

According to the Teacher Support Network (TSN), school staff should avoid allowing pupils access to their profiles on such sites.

The TSN advice states: "Your off-time is your own. Teacher Support Network urges teachers to keep their personal lives personal because we think it promotes better well-being for teachers.

"Furthermore, keeping an appropriate level of personal separation between you and your students makes professional sense as well."

A thread on the TES forum revealed similar fears among teachers, with many claiming that allowing pupils access to their Facebook profiles could leave them open to accusations.

One teacher, using the name Ceiwyn, said: "I despair of colleagues who add pupils as friends, or become friends of their pupils. They are simply exposing themselves to accusations.

"On the other side of the story, I would be very disturbed to hear that my son featured on his teacher's Facebook page."

Another, called Angelil, added: "I set my privacy settings on there (Facebook) as high as they would go as soon as my students (aged 12 and up) started threatening to try and find me (not difficult since my surname is unusual).

"I do get on well with them, but I am very keen to keep my work and personal life separate, and this extends to Facebook."

The NUT in Liverpool has introduced extra training for new teachers in the area to give advice on how new technology can pose a risk to a teacher's professional standing.

Julie Lyon-Taylor, NUT executive member for Merseyside, said many young teachers were so used to using technology, they may pay attention to the risks.

"Because they use it all the time they may not realise what they might be leaving themselves open to," she said.

"It is about educating the young teachers as we want to avoid these incidents which could affect their professional standing or put them in a vulnerable position."

Drawing a line

If you are considering allowing pupils to access your profile:

  • Set up an invitation-only discussion group for your class;
  • Create a classroom fan page separate from your own profile;
  • Increase your profile privacy settings;
    • How to stop pupils finding you:

      • Control who can see your profile and personal information;
      • Limit who can search for you and how you can be contacted;
      • Control news feeds and mini-feeds about you, which get published to your profile and to your friends' news feeds;
      • You can block specific members from seeing anything about you.

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