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Teachers And Social Media: The Online Pros And Cons

 

Social media is a great resource for teachers to improve teaching, get inspired, and connect with other educators. However, it can also be a dangerous place that leads to trouble for teachers if too much is shared. Use social media wisely, and follow our complete guide here for teachers and social media.

 

 

A teacher taking a photo for social media
Photo by Josh Rose on Unsplash

 

 

Overview of Social Media Among Students

Recent studies show:

  • Over 50% of students have at least one social media account by the time they are twelve
  • 83% of students have their own cell phone by middle school
  • 70% of student teens hide online phone activity from their parents

So, you can see why this might be an issue for teachers.

 

 

Overview of Social Media Among Teachers

It should be no surprise that students are not the only ones on social media. Teachers use social media too. They even use social media for education-related tasks. According to a survey done by Digital Trends in the Education Market Report:

  • 81% of teachers use social media to get inspired with new teaching ideas
  • 54% connect with other educators
  • 53% use social media to find teacher discounts and deals.

So it seems for teachers, social media is not all about personal uses.

 

 

Should Teachers and Students Connect on Social Media?

The short answer is: No.

 

Teachers and students should not connect on any online platforms, except for school-provided or required software. Students may like their teachers and think it would be fun to connect on social media, but this is a place where teachers should know that there are more risks than benefits to connecting with students on social media.

 

 

Does Social Media Help or Hurt Students?

It’s an age old question — is technology helping or hurting? In the case of students and social media, it’s a bit of both.

 

Social media can be extremely powerful for students’ learning by connecting them to professionals of topics they are interested in, and exposing them to various ideas and cultures. Social media can also be useful for teaching students about the importance of online privacy, branding, and self-representation.

 

However, social media can also be a major distraction for students if they are interacting with platforms during school. Even if they don’t have their phone in the classroom, a post they saw during break may still be on their minds when they return to class.

 

 

Three male students sitting in back of classroom
Photo by Sam Balye on Unsplash

 

 

Dos and Don’ts of Social Media for Teachers

1. Do Stay in Touch With the Class

 

Do so through a third-party messaging app, or email to the entire class. Due date reminders, helpful test insights, and answers to grading questions sent straight to the phone can be a big help for students.

 

 

2. Don’t Contact Students Directly

 

Don’t have one-on-one conversations online with students, except by email or your school’s software. Do not have direct communication with students on social media, and do not give your students your personal number, no matter how good your intentions are.

 

 

3. Follow Respectable Colleagues

 

Follow education leaders and colleagues that you look up to that share useful and inspirational content, and make social media work for your teaching career.

 

 

4. Don’t Follow Everyone

 

Just because someone adds you, you don’t have to add them back. If you don’t know someone, or don’t like someone that adds you, better to ignore the request.

 

 

5. Show What You are Proud of

 

If you have a hobby or neutral personal interest, you can still let others see that! Whether it’s cooking, photography, or travel — just because you are a teacher, doesn’t mean you have to limit everything you post.

 

 

6. Don’t Share Personal Pictures

 

You should, however, limit highly personal photos. This can include party photos, highly revealing photos, or anything that might indicate where you live.

 

 

7. Don’t Tag Other Teachers

 

It’s great to have a good time with your coworkers. It’s also generally a good idea for any professional to keep really good times with coworkers off social media.

 

 

8. Encourage Students to Make the Most of their Social Media

 

Make sure your students understand the power of branding, creative storytelling, and digital awareness — all a massively important part of success today.

 

 

9. Don’t Post During School Hours

 

Try to stay off the personal stuff during work hours. And if you are on social media, don’t make a post during school hours, as it will look unprofessional.

 

 

Teacher using cell phone and laptop on table
Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

 

 

Avoiding Common Issues for Teachers and Social Media

Follow District Policy

 

Your school district, or school itself if you work at a private school, likely has a policy on teachers and social media. It will often have specific things that are not allowed, and specific things that are allowed. Read through this policy carefully, follow it to a tee, and you shouldn’t have any problems. If you feel your district’s policies on teachers and social media is too vague, ask for clarification and propose updating the policy if it is outdated.

 

 

Be Human, But Avoid Strong Opinions

 

When it comes to sharing opinions, social media is an excellent platform. Users share ideas, collaborate and expand ideas, organize movements, and get into debates online.

 

As a teacher, you need to be careful when it comes to sharing strong or controversial opinions. Try to keep posts that are directly linked to your own profile relatively neutral, and definitely respectful.

 

 

Likes and Retweets

 

It’s not only about when you post something, it’s also all about your likes, follows, and shares. It may seem like no one will see who you follow, but if it’s linked back to you, people will find a way. Best to stick to non-controversial re-tweets, and respectable people to follow.

 

 

All we need is more likes 
Photo by Pratik Gupta on Unsplash

 

 

Never Post Pictures of Students

 

Even if it is well intentioned, such as showing off a brilliant project, posting photos of students online is forbidden. It is a violation of the student’s rights, and parental rights as well. Every family has differing opinions and beliefs about their child’s visibility on social media, and it’s best to leave those decisions to the families.

 

 

Parents, Teachers, and Social Media

 

You may have wondered if it’s okay to add your students’ parents on social media, especially if you have developed a relationship with them. If you do decide to follow or add parents, do so from a professional profile only. A great way to connect with parents may be through LinkedIn, as this is a platform meant for professional connections and idea sharing.

 

 

How to Use Social Media to Improve Teaching

  • Build rapport: Some teachers argue that following students on social media with a professional account helps to build rapport with them. It helps teachers to see what their life is like outside of the one hour that they spend with them each day.
  • Know your students: When following students, colleagues, and community members on social media, you will know what’s going on, right as it’s happening. If an emergency happens in the area, you will be aware and won’t have to hear about it at school.
  • Build digital citizens: What is a digital citizen? A digital citizen is someone who knows how to behave civilly online. Unfortunately, many students are self taught how to behave online, or take after their friends or siblings. Being aware and being vocal about behaviors on social media will help your students become responsible digital citizens.
  • Technology as a multiplier: By using social media, you not only work on what happens within your classroom, but outside as well. What happens inside the classroom will be replicated by more people than just your students.

 

The Bottom Line

Overall, teachers are using social media and that is not going to stop. There are ways to use social media safely and professionally, and in ways that benefit your teaching. Just follow the above tips on teachers and social media, and you’ll be fine!