Teachers Struggle to Separate Private and Professional Lives Online

May 21, 2008 07:00 AM
by Christopher Coats
Teachers are finding that private online profiles are not so private after all, and can have far-reaching consequences.

30-Second Summary

Professional educators from across the country have been warned to monitor the personal information they place on social networking sites, after a series of cases have led to teacher suspensions and even firings.

Warnings range from subtle suggestions from administrators, to strict advisories from state educational associations, but offer a clear message—anything posted to a personal profile is potentially visible to students and their parents, and subject to review.

While a number of school systems have embraced social networking systems for use in the classroom setting, many teachers maintain personal profiles outside of the school environment.

Personal profiles on services such as Facebook, MySpace and YouTube have been cited in cases where students or parents stumble across photos or text offering wildly different perspectives on teachers than what’s presented in class.

Blurring the line between a teacher’s personal and professional lives, these cases suggest that, as one parent observed, the Internet is a new public space and that inappropriate behavior there should not be tolerated any more than in a restaurant or mall.

However, some counter that a generation of Internet-savvy professionals now entering the workforce should not be expected to abandon the social networks they grew up with.

Headline Links: ‘When Young Teachers Go Wild on the Web’

Reactions: Warnings and terminations

Opinion & Analysis: Social networking and the classroom

Related Topics: Harassment of teachers

Reference: Protecting your online persona


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