Tweet smarts: using social media effectively
Using social media has increasingly become part of our daily lives. However, for educators, social media comes with a range of potential professional risks.
In 2011, one in every ten allegations of misconduct against teachers in the United Kingdom related to inappropriate contact between a teacher and student through social media.
Educators can protect themselves from the risks associated with social media by applying a level of caution in their online conduct. Educators should also consider if their school has a social media policy, and adhere to any guidelines of the policy.
Social media activity can become a concern to employers if an employee’s link with their employment is clear.
An employee may be validly terminated due to his/her out-of-hours conduct in the following circumstances:
- the conduct is likely to seriously damage the relationship between the employer and employee; or
- the conduct damages the employer’s interests; or
- the conduct is incompatible with the employee’s duty as an employee.
To warrant termination, the conduct must be of such gravity as to indicate a breach of the employee’s employment contract. Educators are required to maintain a certain objectivity. The suitability requirements under the Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005 (Qld) make it clear that teachers are expected to ‘satisfy a standard of behaviour generally expected of a teacher’.
All educators should ensure that they use stringent security settings to prevent unwanted access by students, parents and the wider school community.
How to secure your social media content
It is important to remember that employers cannot stop you from accessing social media in your personal life outside of work hours. However, applying adequate security settings that ensure your social media content is not publicly accessible is essential.
- Adjust your security under ‘account settings’ to ensure ‘only friends’ can view your posts.
- Change the security status of ‘past posts’ to ‘only friends’, overwriting previous posts that may have been publicly available.
- Change security settings for profile information such as your age, location and interests should to ‘only friends’—this can only be done by viewing your profile and amending the security in the tab options for each individual component.
- Keep your tweets private by clicking on ‘security and privacy settings’ and then checking the option, ‘protect my tweets’.
- Remember that choosing to uncheck this box affects not only future tweets, but also makes any past tweets publicly available.
- Ensure your photos are only visible to approved friends by viewing your profile settings and selecting ‘posts are private’.
While having strong privacy settings is important, remember that friends who have access to your content can share any controversial or potentially offensive content more broadly. Privacy settings do not protect you in this instance. Similarly, tags and comments linked to your profile can often be viewed by friends of friends or others.
Be discerning about who you accept as a friend or follower and maintain a common sense approach to the type of content you post.
Your social media past
You may not have always been as careful with your social media activity prior to pursuing a career in education.
Undertaking a tidy up of your social media history to ensure it reflects your professionalism is sensible—particularly as it is becoming increasingly common for employers to search through an employee’s publicly available social media content.
The best way to check what kind of social media or online content is linked to you is by scrolling through your social media profiles and writing your name into a relevant search engine.
Consider your search results and err on the side of caution by deleting any past content that you think is inappropriate.
If you find content posted on social media platforms that you do not have access to—perhaps an account that belongs to someone else—remember that you can always contact the site administrator to have inappropriate content linked to you deleted.
Ultimately, educators are role models to their students and should ensure their social media content is appropriate. Take a common sense approach to what you post and who you accept as a friend online—and be mindful of personal and professional boundaries.
Got a question about social media or other professional issues? We’re here to help. Call us on 1800 177 938 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org