It is estimated that over 4.6 billion users worldwide use social media and this number continues to increase even as internet connectivity becomes easily accessible in underserved communities.
Naturally, some of these users are adults and children even in cases where age restrictions are being enforced. While individuals are free to express themselves on these platforms, care needs to be taken in the case of teachers.
The profession of a teacher is one that comes with responsibilities even outside the classroom or school environment. While teachers are expected to act as role models to students in school, this goes beyond the school environment.
Society, in general, has some level of trust for teachers and expects them to live up to that trust in their personal lives outside school. As a result, districts and educational institutions have policies governing teachers and their activities. Not only do these policies govern activities inside schools, some of these policies include activities outside school.
A typical example of activities that go against policies is a teacher posting pictures of a student on social media. Some teachers, ignorant of the consequences of these actions have faced consequences from their institutions and districts.
While schools do not forbid their teachers from having their personal lives, care should be taken as any actions that bring disrepute to the profession even in the teacher’s personal lives is grounds for termination of employment, and possibly even loss of teaching license.
Teachers are allowed to have social media accounts, join groups, and communicate with friends through these platforms. That said, care should be taken as educational institutions and districts have regulations governing teachers’ actions on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook.
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Social Media Rules For Teachers
While regulations governing teachers’ activities on social media may differ depending on the district in question, we’ll be outlining some of the most common policies below.
Determine District’s Social Media Policies
Identify your district’s policies on the usage of social media and interactions. Most districts have regulations governing how teachers should comport themselves on these platforms.
Don’t go with what you think may be right as good intentions alone does cannot keep you out of trouble. Confirm your district or school’s regulations on social media usage for teachers.
Don’t Follow Or Friend Students
Refrain from making friends with your students on social media. This means that you reject their friend requests and you do not like or comment on their posts.
Implement Strict Privacy Settings
Now it’s time to learn a few things about privacy settings. Simply joining social media isn’t enough as you need to make sure there’s a distance between yourself and your students.
Check privacy settings to ensure any posts or updates on your account are shared only with people you know. Always set your personal Instagram, Facebook, and other social media accounts to private.
Decent/Appropriate Posts And Images
Ensure that all posts on your personal account are considered decent according to the standards of the institution. This means no talking about provocative topics, posting sexually explicit images and content, no gang or drug-related topics or signs, and definitely no alcohol bottles in your pictures.
This includes profile pictures as they might still be visible to others even when third parties are blocked from seeing your posts.
No School Affiliation
Refrain from affiliating yourself with your educational institution on your personal profile. Never write about your school in any of your posts.
This regulation is a little relaxed in some schools as they may allow teachers to say something about the school so long as it doesn’t depict a negative image of the school. Some even recommend that you pass any mention of the school by the appropriate authorities first.
Don’t Post Pictures/Grades Of Students
This particular regulation is very important in every district as teachers are expressly forbidden from posting student grades or pictures on social media.
Irrespective of how proud the student made you or your good intentions, you can only post any identifiable information about a student with the permission of your institution and a guardian.
While some parents like to post pictures of their children on these platforms, others refrain from doing so. Posting a student’s image on social media platforms without the permission of their parent would be violating the child’s privacy.
No Geotagging/Posting In School
Do not post on your personal social media accounts during school hours. Even in cases where you’re not teaching, refrain from geotagging your location in your post when you’re on school grounds. If you love to take selfies, simply wait till after school and you’re off-campus to take them.
While it’s easy to believe that posts on platforms like Snapchat would vanish after a certain period of time, the truth is that, information doesn’t disappear in our modern world. Snapshots can easily be taken, making it impossible to completely lose any posted information.
Complaints About Your School/Students
You should refrain from complaining about your school or students on your social media accounts. This is especially true if you’re friends with coworkers on social media.
Don’t ever contact students on social media irrespective of your reasons. If you’d like to provide them with some information, try contacting their parents to avoid any issues.
Are Students Allowed To Follow Teachers On Instagram
No, most districts have policies against teachers interacting with students or even friending or following them on social media. Students can only interact with teachers on these platforms after graduation (5 years after graduation is the policy in some schools).
We all use social media and it can be tempting to send that teacher you like a friend request. Our advice is to wait till you graduate as districts have strict regulations against teachers and any forms of interactions with students on social media.
Can Students Follow Their Former Teachers On Instagram
While some districts permit interaction between former students and their former teachers on social media after graduation, others do not allow social media communication or interaction between teachers and students until 5 years after they have graduated.
When Can Students Contact Teachers On Social Media
Maybe you’d like to stay in communication with your favorite teacher but you’re worried that it’d violate the school’s teacher guidelines on social media. We’ll provide some tips on when it’s okay to communicate with your teacher on social media.
You can communicate with your teacher on social media once you’re no longer their student. This means you’ve graduated and are legally considered an adult just to be safe. You can then connect with your former teacher on social media without any worries.
That said some schools have regulations forbidding interaction between teachers and their former students until 5 years after they’re no longer their students.
School Provided Platforms
In the age of online learning, most educational institutions leverage some form of online learning tool with forums and other social functionalities. Communications through these features are moderated by these institutions and students can reach out to teachers about issues related to their academics on these platforms.
These tools like forums are designed specifically for teachers to comment and provide feedback on student forum posts, and other deliverables. Students can also reach out to their students on issues related to academics via messaging features available in these school-provided tools.