Social media has become part of our everyday lives. It’s become almost second nature to snap a photo or share a story, and it’s a great tool to connect with other like-minded educational staff.
But as educators, there are some things we need to remember when interacting online. Once we are in our own social media bubbles, we can forget that other people can see us online too, including our pupils.
In January of this year, it was reported that some schools may ask teachers to hand over their social media profile names while applying for jobs. This could mean those boozy snaps from your holiday 10 years ago or that heated political debate on your profile could come back into the limelight. So, what can you do to make sure your social media presence shows you in the best light?
We’re here to give you some tips and advice on how to protect yourself online, all while making the most of your social media to connect and learn from other educators.
Why should I care about protecting my social media?
As someone working in education, you have a duty to make sure what you post online represents both yourself and those you work with, in the best light. This means ensuring your photos, usernames, tweets, status updates and stories can’t bring you or the school/educational organisation into disrepute or create any Safeguarding concerns.
With students being so savvy on social media, they may try to find you, add you as a friend or even talk to you. This could pose issues with Safeguarding and school policy, so it’s important to do your best to prevent this.
Secondly, people may screenshot your photos, statuses, and comments, and share your content, even after you delete them. Anything you say that may bring a school in disrepute could be a reason for dismissal, so be sure to not only check your school’s social media policy but audit yourself online too.
What can I do to protect my social media?
Our first piece of advice is to lock down your social media profiles, make accounts private and use the privacy settings on social media platforms to make it hard for people to search for you. More details on how to do this for Facebook and Instagram can be found on My-Progression’s video, Online Safety for Teachers:
Okay, I’ve locked my profiles down, that’s enough right?
Turning your profiles private is a big step forward in the right direction and will make it harder for pupils and parents to find you. However, as Mark Lehain explains for SchoolsWeek: “Assume you are giving ammunition to your worst enemy.”
Think about your Facebook profile, could you recall everyone you are friends with? Do you know every single Instagram follower? Would you trust every follower or an online friend with private information? If you’re someone with hundreds of friends and followers, the answer is probably no. There’s no stopping a staff member from your school from screenshotting a status of yours moaning about the new Headteacher, or a friend of a friend forwarding a photo of you passed out on a beach in Ibiza. For best practice, audit your profiles and check:
- Your photos and tagged photos: if there are photos you want to keep, change your Facebook album to ‘only me’ or archive the post on Instagram
- Your previous posts: scroll through them or use the ‘memories’ function on Facebook and Instagram to look through past posts and delete what you need to
- Your Twitter feed: you can use the search bar to type in your own username, plus words that may be in any tweets, to find and delete them
- Your following/likes: have any pages changed their name since you liked them last? Who you follow and like is public, so it’s worth checking
As an extra safety step, you could consider using a pseudonym or changing your name slightly online, to make it harder to search for you. It’s worth noting that even if you delete a photo, someone may have screenshotted it before you had the chance, so the quicker you act, the more likely it is that you’ve kept yourself safe.
Your personal brand and posting online
Now that you’ve audited and edited your social media, you can keep your personal and professional life at a healthy distance from each other. If you do want to have a professional presence online, that’s great! Using social media in a professional way can help you find new trends or classroom discussion points, as well as show off your work to other educators or future prospective employers.
What you post, comment and share build a personal brand for you, helping people form an image of who you really are. This is where you can promote yourself as a caring, nurturing and professional educator who has passions and hobbies!
Some post ideas include:
- Display boards, lesson plans and activities that stand out from the crowd
- Your teacher lifestyle: how you prepare for class, what you pack in your bag, or new technology you’ve been enjoying
- Classroom strategies: do you have a behaviour or pedagogy strategy that works like a charm? Share it with your network
These are just some ideas that will help you build a platform for conversation with other educators and showcase yourself as a superstar teacher or support staff.
If you want to step up a professional account, consider:
- An appropriate name and picture
- When you post: don’t post when you should be teaching or supervising!
- Photos of children: without consent, taking a photo of a child under 18 can pose a Safeguarding risk. The children don’t have to be in the photo for you to talk about their schoolwork
- Opinions on your school: if you have a negative opinion or a reason to debate, have that conversation between friends in private, not on a professional and public page
Our top picks of UK education influencers
There are thousands of education influencers who post classroom ideas, advice and support for education staff just like you. From tuff trays to teaching resources, well-being advice and weekly check-ins, we recommend following them to build your support network online and continue your development. Here are a few of our top picks:
Mr C Classroom on Instagram
Social media is a powerful tool to help you develop your career. Your digital presence acts like an online footprint that other people, including your school and your pupils, can follow.
If you work in education, you should take steps to protect your personal brand and ensure pupils can’t find and share what you post on social media. Check your posts, photos and tagged photos, and take steps to make sure your personal account is private. If you want to set up a professional account, look at what other educational influencers are doing and make sure your posts and comments show you in the best possible light, you never know who may stumble across your social media!
Do you have any tips on staying safe on social media? Let us know in the comments on our video about social media for teachers, and for more advice on working in education, be sure to subscribe to our CPD YouTube channel My-Progression.