Lesson for teachers in online behaviour

23:00, Oct 08 2012

Teachers are being warned inappropriate use of social media could put their careers in jeopardy.

A website launched for Kiwi teachers alerts them to ethical dilemmas, with a selection of online videos highlighting when social media activity can translate to professional faux pas.

The New Zealand Teachers Council has teamed up with Netsafe to issue advice for teachers using sites such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs on how their online activity can cross boundaries between their professional and private lives.

One of the issues confronting teachers is how the personal material they post online might be perceived by pupils and their parents, council director Dr Peter Lind said.

"Strong role-modelling by teachers will grow learners who understand the implications of their actions online, helping them to become good digital citizens."

It was also important for teachers to consider what their Facebook or Twitter account was saying to employers.


In one video on the site, a young job hunter finds herself consistently knocked back in her bids to gain employment. Finally, she confronts a principal who tells her the contents of her Facebook profile suggest she has personal traits inappropriate for a teacher.

The scenarios were hypothetical, and not based on any one case, Mr Lind said. However, employers turning up unflattering details in a routine Google search of a prospective employee was not unheard of.

"Certainly, we have heard anecdotally that information that has been posted on [a teacher's] Facebook has affected them professionally."

Palmerston North-trained teacher Megan Bates had taught in New Zealand for more than two years before she travelled overseas. Since she had returned home, she had been conscious of how her online activity affected her success as a job hunter.

"I try to have all my privacy set to high, so only my friends can see what I'm doing."

She had thought about what might set alarm bells ringing for prospective employers viewing her Facebook profile.

"Photos - obviously, those that are alcohol or smoking-related, just general behaviour."

While working in London, Ms Bates' eyes had been opened by a friend whose job description was to gather intelligence through social media for employers assessing job applicants.

"That's when I started to realise, and now I think a little more about it," she said.

The perils of online candour have been felt among educators in the region before.

Longtime and now former Hokowhitu School principal Allan Alach stepped down as principal months after he used a blog to criticise the Government's national standards policy and referred to the Education Review Office as "the Gestapo" and the Education Ministry as the "Ministry of (Mis)Education".

Then education minister Anne Tolley condemned his online activity, and Mr Alach issued a letter saying he regretted his comments.

Dr Lind said that as was the case for any professionals, teachers needed to be aware of the maxim that what happens online, stays online - often forever.

"Some of these things will come back to bite you."


*The Teachers' Council guidelines "Before You Share" warns teachers to:

*Maintain appropriate boundaries

*Be clear about the purpose of their interactions via social media and posts' lifespan and privacy

*Be open to learning more about the internet

*Be aware of how persistent and shareable posts are Be responsible and a role model for learners and colleagues

 *Attend to copyright issues

Manawatu Standard