Social Networking

Social networking websites allow members to build and create online public profiles. These sites provide users with various ways of interacting with other users, such as blogs, bulletins, instant messenger, and email. There are many social media providers with Facebook and YouTube being the most popular, closely followed by Reddit, Twitter and Instagram. However, using any social networking website is not without its risks. Professionals who use these websites do not have a free pass to say or do whatever they please without jeopardizing their employment. The following suggestions will help you use these forums in a responsible way that minimizes the risks associated with use of the site.

1.   Do not use a social networking websites. This is the best way to guarantee that you won’t get in trouble by posting inappropriate or questionable material. Simply deleting inappropriate material may not keep students, parents, or administrators from finding the deleted information. Often, cached Web pages may be located containing outdated information, including inappropriate or questionable material you may have posted. There are also websites that exist to catalogue all Web pages in existence. Thus, the best way for you to protect yourself from inadvertently posting inappropriate materials is not to have a social networking profile.

2.   If you use social media, change your privacy settings. Change who can view your profile to my friends only. By doing this, you prevent others who are not on your friends list from viewing the content on your page. If you decide to have an account, this option reduces the scope of access to your page. To change this setting, go to account settings (on your main page), then to privacy settings. Then, under who can view my profile, select my friends only.

If you have a Facebook account, your profile is only accessible to users you have added as a friend and users in your networks. While your friends can always view your profile, you can change your privacy settings to not allow members in your network view your profile. To change this setting, go to privacy (on your main page), then to profile. Under profile, you can change who can view your profile to only my friends.

3.   Do not add students as friends. It’s best not to add students as friends so that in case you do post material unsuitable for your students, they will not have access to it. If you’ve made your page private, students won’t be able to view your content unless they are added as friends. To ensure that you don’t add students as friends, in many cases you can change your privacy settings to prevent persons under 18 from contacting you.

On Facebook, students may be able to view your online content if they belong to a network you belong to, even if those students are not on your friends list. It is advisable to change your privacy settings so only your friends can view your profile content.  Facebook also allows you to control whether your profile can be found through a public search listing on the website. You can limit users who can search for your profile to all or some users in your various networks or users on your friends list. Generally, when a profile is found using the public search listing, the searcher can see your picture, send a message, view your friends, or add you as a friend. To limit students from adding you as a friend or messaging you, go to privacy, then search, and scroll down to what can people do with my search results. Next, deselect send a message and add as friend.

4.   Do not post offensive or questionable pictures. Pictures often tell one thousand words, even if the words are unintentional. Use discretion when posting pictures of yourself on your profile or the profile of a friend. Pictures including alcohol, minimal clothing, or questionable poses may be interpreted as promoting this behavior for students.

5.   Do not post offensive or questionable comments. Even if your students don’t have access to your page because you have changed your privacy settings, comments you post on other people’s  pages might be accessible to your students if those people’s pages are not restricted. If what you want to say could get you in trouble, it is best not to say it at all. Additionally, comments left on other’s pages can be found by searching Google or other search engines. So, even if students don’t know your friends, they might still find your comments by using creative search techniques.

6.   Do not post offensive or questionable content. When you create a post, it can be seen by anyone on your friends list. Even though you might not have students on your friends list, you might have colleagues or other people added as friends who have an interest in your employing school and community. If you post a questionable or offensive content and someone doesn’t like it, it could come back to haunt you.

7.  Do not post offensive or questionable blogs. If you’re posting offensive or questionable material, and anyone can see it, you are opening yourself up to violating school policy. Users can post comments in group forums and discussions. If you choose to blog or join discussion forums, use discretion as to what would be appropriate if students were to read your comments.

8.   Be aware of offensive friends. Make sure you know who you are adding as a friend to your profile. Many profiles are fake and may link to adult/pornographic websites. If a profile on your friends list contains inappropriate material, you may be considered a promoter or endorser of the inappropriate material.

9.   Do not post contact information. To ensure your privacy, do not post your home address, phone number, personal email address, or other private contact information on your profile.

10.   Read the privacy policies of the social networking website. Various social media providers have their own privacy policies. There is no guarantee that the information in your account can be 100 percent secure. Some social media providers acknowledge that the possibility exists of unauthorized entry into your account. Thus, you create a profile and add content at your own risk.