When asked about any problems that had arisen from his use of social media, he said: “I have only one account, and I do allow current students to 'friend' me. I have a couple of self-imposed policies: I don't 'friend' my students, but if they find me I will accept their request. I do not go on my students' walls. On the rare occasion when a student's status update has mentioned anything that might get them in trouble, I will gently remind them that they are my 'friend' and that I saw it.
"I think that I'm more comfortable with this than I would be if I were a younger teacher, particularly if I knew that there were digital photos out there of my college years, etc.,” he added.
Bultman brings up several interesting points. Are younger teachers — many of whom used Facebook while in college — in a potentially more dangerous situation? Should they be held to a different standard? This is another instance of the importance of a school-imposed policy. While self-imposed policy is better than no policy at all, one that is created and backed by the school administration would have a greater weight should a teacher’s or student’s activities on social networks be called into question. I asked Bultman if Lincoln-Way had a school or district-administered social-media policy:
“Officially no, but that may be on the horizon,” he said.
I also spoke with several other teachers and a principal. Most, like Bultman, had similar self-imposed policies. Some younger teachers have deleted their Facebook accounts altogether after recent stories hit the news about teachers getting fired for their Facebook posts. None of the teachers I spoke with are working at schools that have formal social-media policies governing teacher and student conduct.
Social media is a powerful tool that offers multiple opportunities for teachers and students alike. Therefore, schools should think carefully and act deliberately in instituting comprehensive policies that would allow these opportunities to be realized. Your organization should do the same for its staff and supporters.