Don’t leave yourself open to abuse, teachers told
Teachers should keep their distance from parents as much as pupils on social media sites for fear of being “trolled” in revenge for classroom punishments, a head teacher has advised. Mark Steed, principal of Berkhamsted School and chairman of the information and communications technology (ICT) strategy committee for the Independent Schools Council (ISC), told The Times that parents could “troll” teachers following punishments or oversights involving their children.
“Social media colours what was a very simple relationship,” he said. “There needs to be a very clear separation between pupils and teachers’ private lives. This can be confused by friendship on Facebook, which can lay a teacher open to accusations that are hard to defend, because of private messaging.” Mr Steed said his senior staff had school mobile phones and could use these to text pupils about school matters, but that he had drawn up guidance for teachers on using social media.
He added: “Another concern is of parents trolling teachers, and about members of the profession being vulnerable on websites such as Rate My Teachers, which is a totally unaccountable platform.
We did have a very difficult situation where a parent was upset that a child didn’t make it onto a sports team. “In vengeance, the parent went online and sent me a picture of the teacher at a party from the teacher’s Facebook site. It hadn’t been protected by privacy settings. We have now taken steps against parents doing that.”
Mr Steed recommended that teachers set up two separate Twitter feeds for their personal and professional lives. “Don’t ‘follow’ pupils. This removes a potential private communication channel. You can control who follows and block who replies,” he said. Of Facebook, Mr Steed added: “There is a private communication channel which opens teachers to charges of unprofessionalism. Don’t ‘friend’ current pupils and be very wary of ‘friending’ former pupils.”
Berkhamsted is hosting the ISC’s annual strategy conference this week for heads of ICT at schools.