Learn How to Keep Your Social Media “School Friendly”
Over 70% of Americans use at least one social media platform, and establishing an online presence has become important in both personal life and professional development. Here are some tips to help present yourself professionally and set the right boundaries for your online interactions.
Follow the Rules
The first, most important step to using social media in education is learning your school’s policies. Almost all organizations now have formal rules and guidelines for social media, and they can vary significantly from school to school and district to district. You might be required to set up a separate work account, give access to administrators, and accept restrictions on your activity. Your school and its district could have separate policies, so remember that there may be more than one set of rules in play.
Find Your Voice
When making your account, craft the persona you want others to see. Decide what subjects and specialties you want to highlight and settle on a preferred tone. Look to peers in your school or field to determine what level of formality and kinds of posts are common in your field of work. Consulting mission statements and school goals can also provide inspiration and guidance. Be careful to avoid potentially controversial topics, as they can raise negative attention and sour professional relationships. Religious messages should be kept to a minimum unless you are at a religious school, and political discussion is best kept offline and out of public view.
Avoid Student Interactions
Most social media policies set guidelines for how to deal with students and their families, but it’s usually wise to minimize direct interaction regardless. Choosing to friend, follow, or engage with only some students can imply favoritism. Private interactions can open the door to accusations of impropriety, and publicly posted messages can be misinterpreted as speaking for your school. Negative interactions in public can even follow you long after any disciplinary measures are done. Some organizations will have exceptions to this rule, such as dedicated social media platforms deployed by schools and officially-sanctioned groups on platforms like Facebook.
Always Get Permission
Capturing priceless moments and sharing your school’s activities can be an easy way to showcase the work you’re doing and express how proud you are of your students, but it isn’t right– or, often, legal– to share without consent. Make sure to have written permission from parents before using any student likeness or work, and keep in mind that many social media policies also require permission for posting pictures or mentions of teachers and staff. Your school’s administrators will probably be able to provide their preferred release forms for you to use, and additional templates are easily found online.
Embrace Your Privacy
Social media platforms provide a variety of tools to help manage who sees your profile and posts. Some networks like Twitter and Instagram use simple systems where your entire account is either open to the public or only visible to friends and followers, while others like LinkedIn have separate choices for each part of your profile. Facebook offers especially robust options, allowing you to sort friends into “lists” and set each post to “Public,” “Friends,” “Friends except,” or visible only to specific people. Go to the help section on your platform of choice and look for “Privacy Settings” to explore what features are available.