Instagram, Tinder to Snapchat: A Teacher’s Guide to Staying Safe on Social Media

Overview

You may be a new teacher to the profession, have had pupils asking you to follow them on Instagram or are unsure how to safely navigate social media while at school.

Edapt has produced a guide on how teachers can manage their social media accounts with a selection of practical tips.

Remember, in the majority of instances ‘common sense’ prevails. However, as social media evolves there will be new challenges for teachers. From Snapchat, TikTok to Tinder it can be confusing to keep up-to-date with all the latest social media trends.

Below is a list of Dos and Don’ts when using social media. We have also produced a list of frequently asked questions and a glossary of the different types of social media accounts your pupils might be using.

Social media dos

  • Read your school’s social media policy to make sure you understand and adhere to its contents. Your social media policy will outline specific details about the expectations at your school. Some schools may be stricter than others about your social media presence
  • Review your privacy settings on your social media accounts throughout the year. Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels update their privacy settings regularly so you will want to check that your settings are up-to-date. You will be able to do this by clicking on ‘settings’ and reviewing who can view your posts. On the majority of social media accounts you can set your posts to ‘private’ so only users you have accepted can view your content. You do not want pupils commenting on your latest holiday photo collection!
  • Always think twice about what you post online. How would your comment or post be viewed by parents or people in the local community? Messages can be interpreted in different ways than you originally intended
  • Review you password settings. Pupils may be able to capture your password if you login to your Gmail account, watch Youtube videos, or login to the TES. Some pupils may be able to hack your social media accounts if you are not careful with your passwords
  • Think about who you follow on your social media channels. This information can be viewed by pupils or parents without them being directly being your ‘friend’ or ‘follower’. It could lead to awkward conversations if pupils find out if you follow anyone controversial or a specific political group
  • Be careful about how your social media accounts link to other websites. You can post in online forums such as The Guardian Online which can be linked to your Facebook account. Posts on these forums will display your full name and your comments
  • Explain to your friends the professionalism of your role if you are entering into teaching for the first time. You do not want your friends tagging you into photos or posts which will damage your reputation. Some social media sites allow you to review posts you are tagged in before they are made public
  • Be aware if you are registered with any dating websites or apps such as Tinder, Lovestruck, or Match.com. Pupils may be able to create false accounts which would put you at risk when meeting someone. Again, be careful about what you fully reveal about yourself online
  • Search your name every few months to see what the Google search results are. Your pupils might do this after they find out your first name! Google has produced information on how to remove sensitive information about yourself online
  • Do not feel pressurised to add pupils not matter how well or long you have known them. To be cautious, it is best not to add pupils even after they have left the school as they might have siblings or other family members who attend your school

Social media don’ts

  • Use social media without completely understanding your school’s social media policy. If you have any questions about your policy, seek out the member of staff who wrote it
  • Do not follow pupils on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or other social media channels. If a pupil has requested to follow you as a ‘friend’ either ignore or delete it. They will not be notified if you do. You are putting yourself in a vulnerable position by sharing personal information or by having access to personal information about your pupils
  • Post negative comments about your school, colleagues or community. Pupils, staff and parents could take your posts as being highly offensive or unprofessional
  • Use your school laptop to log into your social media accounts. Your school might have an acceptable ICT use policy which will outline details on how you can use your school laptop. Unless your school specifically allows it, always use your own personal laptop or phone when accessing your social media accounts or websites of a sensitive nature
  • Post messages which are provocative, politically motivated or sexual in nature
  • Continue sending messages with pupils or parents if you have already added them on your social network. If you feel your professionalism has been compromised notify your school immediately before the situation spirals out of control

Frequently asked questions

What should I do if I am a victim of cyber bullying at school?

You might find yourself being cyber bullied or blackmailed by pupils or parents online. If a pupil or parent makes inappropriate posts or doctors images of you, do not retaliate. Save and print all available evidence, such as wall posts, messages and the time and date.

Your school has a duty of care for the safety and welfare of staff and should take reasonable steps to support staff experiencing cyberbullying. Pupils should not be allowed to take photos or videos of you in the classroom and your school should have a behaviour policy which includes details on the use of mobile phones.

You will want to talk to a senior member of staff or whoever is responsible for e-safety at your school. Social media can spread very quickly, it will be important notify your school as quickly as possible to put a stop to it.

Can I use social media for educational purposes?

You might be able to use social media ideas creatively to engage pupils in a particular topic. There are some really interesting ideas for using social media in the classroom, from creating profile pages of characters in a novel or creating a blog post about an event in school.

You will be able to find and print out templates for these activities online. If your school supports the positive use of social media, always seek clear guidance from a senior member of staff if you wish to use these with your pupils. Always act in accordance with school policy.

I have made an error of judgement in a social media post which has been noticed by pupils. How can I not let this affect my reputation?

Everyone makes mistakes. With social media, as the evidence is recorded and clear for all to see it will be difficult to deny your actions or behaviour. You will want to be clear with your school as early on as possible about the comments you have made and issue an apology where appropriate.

Your school may decide to launch an investigation and potential disciplinary procedures against you. Edapt will be able to support you through this process.

Social media accounts your pupils might be using

Facebook:  is the largest social network in the world. The majority of your pupils will probably have accounts even though you have to be 13 to register. After registering to use the site, pupils can create a user profile, add other users as “friends”, exchange messages, post status updates and photos, share videos, use various apps, and receive notifications when others update their profiles.

Instagram: is an online photo-sharing, video-sharing, and social networking service that enables its users to take pictures and videos, and share them either publicly or privately.

PSN or Xbox Live: are online computer game communities. Pupils might request to add you as a friend or look at the games and films you interact with.

Snapchat: is a photo messaging and multimedia mobile application. Pupils might take a photo and distribute it throughout their group of friends. There have been instances of pupils distributing photos on Snapchat of a sexual nature.

TikTok: is a social media app for creating and sharing videos with an emphasis on music. It used to be called muscial.ly.

Tinder: is a location-based dating service application that facilitates communication between mutually interested users, allowing matched users to chat.

Twitter: Twitter is an online social networking service that enables users to send and read short messages called ‘tweets.’

WhatsApp: is an instant messaging client for smartphones. It uses the Internet to send text messages, documents, images, video, user location and audio messages to other users.

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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
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