Teachers and Social Media

Having written in ASCL’s leadership magazine encouraging School Leaders to use twitter it makes sense to follow up with some advice about using Social Media in general. Whilst Social Media is an immensely useful tool it is something which needs wielding with sensitivity and Mark Anderson’s recent blog here on Teachers Blogging struck a chord with me as his advice almost mirrored what I refer to as my ’Monty’s golden rules’ which I wrote and are:

When putting content online think:

  • If you wouldn’t want your mum to see it.
  • If you wouldn’t want your employer/boss to see it.
  • If you wouldn’t want your wife/husband/partner to see it
  • If you wouldn’t want your friend to see it.
  • If you think it might needlessly upset someone.


Having also sat as a chair on the National Professional Conduct Panels for two years and heard a number of serious cases it was surprising (or maybe not) to discover how often the issue of misusing social media would be entwined within much more serious allegations or wrongdoing. You can explore the outcomes yourself here.

As a senior school Leader the starting point for safeguarding your staff is a clear school policy. Guidance on Social Networking for teachers is available from the DFE here. A clear policy is essential to support professionals in making effective use of Social Media but it has to be backed up by frank and open discussions.

What are the rules/laws?

The DFE states:

All school staff are in a position of trust, and there are expectations that they will act in a professional manner at all times.

In terms of legislation the National Professional Conduct Panels make reference to the Teachers’ Standards which do not make specific references to social media but do refer to teachers maintaining high standards of personal and professional conduct as well as acting within statutory frameworks and those of their schools.

You should also consider the Employment Code of Conduct which is where most teachers or staff will come unstuck.

Examples of teachers coming unstuck.

Making comments about parents, pupils or your employer online. Example.

Moaning about work online. Example.

Accepting a job and not heeding expectations about images displayed on social media. Example.

Making comments about pupils. Example.

Make yourself safe

  • Tip 1. – Consider using different platforms for social and professional use. I use facebook for friends and family and it is locked down. Twitter however is for professional tweeting and is open to allow engagement with other professionals.
  • Tip 2 – Check your privacy settings. For instance, facebook allows you to control who sees your posts. Friends. Friends and their friends. Everyone.
  • Tip 3 – Control your audience. Facebook allows you to assign friends to groups. You can control who sees your messages.
  • Tip 4 – Remember that once you have put it out there any of your friends or associates can share your comments or media. They may do this out of context either deliberately or unwittingly.
  • Tip 5 – Read your school’s policy on ICT and social media. If you don’t have one get involved with writing one.

Your digital profile

If you are applying for jobs it is useful to check out your digital profile. A friend of mine recently went for a big Deputy Head post. He was unsurprised to be asked “How is the rugby season going?” by the Chair of Governors, after all, he had mentioned in the personal interest section of his application that Rugby was a passion. The follow up questions was not expected – “How are you finding your 7 match ban?”

Following an altercation on the pitch a few weeks before he had been banned for some less than sporting conduct in the heat of the moment and this had been reported on the sports pages of a local news website. It was clear that the Chair of Governors had googled him as part of their vetting procedures. He didn’t get the job either. This classic video clip outlines what many teachers are like.  The first 90 seconds could be a reality for many. WARNING – MILDLY OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE IN VIDEO CLIP NOT SUITABLE FOR LITTLE KIDS.

So what can you do if there is something less than pleasant about you in a google search. There are two basic approaches you can use. One is to get it removed, the other is to dilute search results with more favourable positive results about you, so that the negative press is moved to page 2 or 3 of your google search results. Most people don’t go past page 1 of the google results. Here are some steps you can take.

  1. First of all you can get it removed. If the content is illegal there are various authorities you can report it to. In some cases, content might be owned by someone who is willing to simply remove it. Contact them and make your case.
  2. Get ownership of information about yourself by creating professional profiles. You could create private accounts in twitter, facebook, linkedin or even purchase your own domain name.
  3. Link the profiles you have created to boost their search result status.
  4. Publish articles regularly and include links to your profiles within them.
  5. Share media using websites like youtube, flickr and slideshare. Aside from the positive impact of sharing resources these sites are targeted by search engines.
  6. Comment on national news articles such as the BBC using your real profile name.
  7. Create profiles on websites owned by local government that allow public comments. Use your real name.
  8. If you are linked to news story on a national paper website, you can try bumping off the result my publishing something on their domain. Google only likes to rank one result per domain on its first page. E.g. A negative news story about you and your school is on the BBC website. Bump it off by creating a user profile with your name on the BBC site and commenting on other news stories using your name and linking in other sites owned by you.

I really enjoy pondering use of technology so please drop me a line with your thoughts. Safe surfing.



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