(Anti)Social Media in Schools?
I would like to think that I am a relatively ethical individual. I think about ethics; and there are certain sectors in our society about whom I am happy to articulate my views regarding their ethical redundancy (property speculators, neo-liberalists, many politicians; the list goes on!) But what about teachers?
As noted by Hall, even in the nearly 15 years I have been teaching I have perceived a blurring of the socialization roles of families and schools. Schools, and ultimately classroom teachers, are increasing been held responsible for addressing societies ills, be they physical health, relationship based, mental health, road safety et al. With these responsibility come inevitable ethical considerations.
The Social Media in School's Dilemma
There is one area with the profession where there is clearly blurred ethical expectations; Social Media. The explosion of social media over the last decade has led to its integration and normalisation within schools, and this is where the ethical issues begin.
Local press seems to love nothing more than a teacher being censured for 'inappropriate dealing with students. Any search quickly throws up numerous examples. So, the ultimate question becomes, what Social Media interaction with students is ok? My sons class have a blog, another class uses Twitter, the school football team I coach has a Facebook page, the school has an Instagram account; in fact my College has a dedicated Social Hub that draws together its web presence!
How should a teacher behave on Social Media? Should they interact with students? If so; in what situations?
I think almost all teachers are aware of the, hopefully, common sense advice given in many schools, the most common of which appears to be a simple 'Don't be a friend with students on Social Media'. What about a Facebook Group for a sports team, school trip etc. What about past students? What if the students are our relatives?
Let Common Sense Rule
Without wanting to sound too pious about it, I think I am pretty careful with my Social Media use in general, but particularly in regard to student interactions. I have a separate Facebook profile that does not contain my image, that I use in the group page for the sports teams I am involved with. It is a useful medium to disseminate information to players, particularly at short notice (cancellations, ground granges etc).
Unfortunately I feel that all staff are as careful as they could be. I have, recently, attempted to garner support and momentum from leadership to develop a staff social media policy, but that remains an ongoing project, at this point. Getting agreement has proved more problematic than I was perhaps hoping, and
The Ministry Resources do give some guidelines, but I feel that ultimately the individual teacher needs to be challenged and informed to a point where ultimately, a professional employee conducts themselves professionally.
Hall, A. (2001) What ought I to do, all things considered? An approach to the exploration of ethical problems by teachers. Paper presented at the IIPE Conference, Brisbane. Retrieved from http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Culture/Developing-leaders/What-Ought-I-to-Do-All-Things-Considered-An-Approach-to-the-Exploration-of-Ethical-Problems-by-Teachers