Social media can be a great classroom tool for modeling what good digital citizenship looks like. Teachers play a pivotal role in teaching their students about privacy issues and protecting their privacy if needed. Teachers are  tasked to introduce their students to responsible, creative and critical media use. This post  tries to help teachers to safeguard student privacy on social media.

The first and most important step in safeguarding student privacy on social media is to establish transparent policies. The best point to start is gathering what’s already available: locate and review your district or school’s social media guidelines. This is the least common denominator and something that you can easily accomplish.

Try to engage parents of your students. Talk to them about privacy issue on social media. See if they already are using techniques that can be adapted to classroom use. Ask for their permission if you want to introduce their children to social media. Using consent and opt-in/out forms is a great idea that you can use here.

As mentioned above try to locate your school or board’s policies or guidelines for social media use in your classroom.  If you can’t find such guidelines, try to compile one yourself. Never start using social media in your classroom without such guidelines in place.

As your first steps in getting ready to use social media in your classroom, consider the following steps:

  • Don’t use your personal social media accounts. Create an account for professional  use.
  • Have a chat with your students and explain to them how and for what purpose you are using social media in your classroom. It will help to set the goal and clear misunderstandings from the very beginning.
  • Review and make sure you and your students understand the privacy settings of your social media account.
  • Take an inventory of the sharing settings for your digital files and folders
  • Get the right tools (such as a photo editing app on your phone) to cut our sensitive information
  • Do NOT display sensitive student or class information on walls or whiteboards

Most of the times not sharing information may not be enough. You might need to take concrete actions to protect confidential information :

  • Be mindful of social posts that feature or promote and educational product.
  • Closely review any picture you share before posting
  • Look out for name tags and jerseys.
  • Turn off location services for your phone when posting pictures.
  • Do not share students faces or names without parental consent.
  • Do not use students’ names when naming files.
  • Do not publicly share grades, assessments or any part of a students’ educational records
  • Do not forget that handwriting is personally identifiable information.

Yes, it is a long list and may sound a little bit overwhelming and intimidating. But you need to take all these precautionary steps to make sure your students’ privacy are safeguarded online. If you feel you are not quite ready to go on a social media platform that is publicly accessible, use a classroom-only tool such as a Learning Management System to share safely and build your classroom’s digital citizenship skills and strongly protect student privacy on social media.