I put this together about two months ago at the request of some educational technology professionals I know who were curious about boundaries when it comes to what to post and do on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. I tweaked it just this week to present to a group of elementary (K-5) teachers. I'm not a lawyer or legal expert, but based on my observations over the past few years, here's my suggestions for teachers, particularly K-12 (but higher ed isn't exempt) who want to participate in social networks but still keep their privacy and their jobs.
1. Investigate the privacy settings on your social networking sites and USE them.
10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Knowhttp://www.allfacebook.com/2009/02/facebook-privacy/
How To Be Safe Online (MySpace) CBS News Video
MySpace Safety Tips and Settings
2. Be mindful of what the things you post on your profile say about you – not just words and photos, but groups you belong to, “fun” items posted to your profile, etc. Would you want to discuss those things in person with your boss, students, students’ parents, or co-workers? What first impression does your profile pic give?
Keeping Face on Facebook: CBS News Video
Everyone Video from the Ad Council
3. If you wouldn’t say it or do it or view it with your grandparent/parent/spouse/child/
students/clergy/boss/coworker, don’t post it anywhere on the Internet (or send it in an email for that matter…)
When Young Teachers Go Wild on the Web
4. People’s standards differ – you might not care if people see a photo of you in a bar tossing one back with your after-work attire on, but the people (students, parents, colleagues) who see your profile might care.
Say Cheese: 12 Photos That Should Never Have Been Posted Online
5. It’s called the WORLD WIDE web for a reason. Courts have ruled that once you post it on the Internet, you have given up your expectation of privacy.
MySpace Musings Aren’t Private, Appeals Court Rules
6. Do not become online friends with students. Yours or anyone else’s. Period. Don’t become online friends with any minors you are not related to.
7. It is OK to not accept someone’s friend request. Or put them in a very limited group in your profile. Don’t succumb to a false sense of guilt!
8. Bashing your current or former workplace, coworkers, or supervisors online is a bad idea. It will bite you in one way or another.
9. Colleges and employers are Googling potential students and employees. Something posted 10 days or 10 years ago can come back to haunt you. Your digital footprint grows larger every year and it really is permanent. (Google yourself occasionally. You might be careful what you post, but are your friends or others careful? Think Michael Phelps.)
Social Networking Sites Can Affect Employment Searches
10. Your job and/or career may hinge on the decisions you make about what words and photos you post, whom you are friends with online, how well you protect your online profiles, what others post about you, and what kinds of photos you allow to be taken of yourself.
NOTE: I published a brief follow-up to this post in August 2009.
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