Social networking spaces like MySpace and Facebook may be a good way to keep in touch with friends but teachers and other education personnel should be careful in terms of creating personal profiles, communicating with students, and sharing sensitive information. As a result of an investigation, the Ohio Education Association (OEA) has issued a strongly worded warning to its members: “OEA advises members not to join [these sites], and for existing users to complete the steps involved in removing their profiles,” the memo said. “While this advice might seem extreme, the dangers of participating in these two sites outweigh the benefits.”
While HCEA/MSTA have not gone that far, members need to be very careful about what they share online. Individuals need to remember that it’s accessible by students and that material may be inappropriate for students or parents to see. You probably don’t want discontented parents or mischievous students circulating those pictures of you from your college keg party or wet t-shirt contest.
Other concerns have also arisen. Investigations around the country and Maryland involving misconduct underscore the reasons for this concern. The Ohio memo goes on to say “The fact that a student can attempt to contact a … member who has a profile on these sites lends itself to the possible interpretation of an improper relationship.” It goes on, “Because of the high standards placed on school employees and the risk of job and career loss, the OEA recommends avoiding even the appearance of impropriety.” All communications with school-age children should be through official school e-mails only. HCEA thinks this is good advice. If you participate in a social network website, review the material you have posted and remove any material that may be inappropriate given your employment as an educator.