Educators are entitled to enjoy their personal lives outside of school and to express themselves and their opinions in person and on-line. That said, because educators work with children and young adults and are seen as role models in the community, they are held to high standards for their public behavior and on-line activities. At home and in school be mindful of the public nature of your on-line activities. Your role in the school community goes beyond your duties in the classroom. Here are some helpful hints regarding your electronic activities both on and off the job.
Social networking Web sites The opportunity for self-expression on the Internet is endless. Countless Web sites, including MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and LiveJournal, provide interactive networks complete with user profiles, photos, blogs, chat rooms, videos, e-mail, bulletin boards, text messaging and even voice telephony (i.e., live talk!). What you say in cyberspace—about yourself, about your job, about your beliefs, about your activities—is easy for others to fi nd and read. In an increasingly digital world, the line between what is public and what is private, between your professional life and your personal life, is no longer clear. If you create your own Web page or post comments in cyberspace, remember your role as a teacher or school staff member. Yes, you are entitled to have a private life away from school. Still, your off-duty conduct can affect your job security. Anyone can browse your personal Web page or your blog. Web sites such as MySpace.com cannot guarantee your privacy or your anonymity. Posted comments are public comments. You may intend your posts to be for your own personal community of friends, but you are also speaking, in effect, to everyone in the school community, including administrators, parents and students. Even if you have set your page to “private,” people with access to it can download pictures or comments and forward them to others via e-mail. Stay in bounds!
IM is fast, informal, uninhibited and in real time. IM is a relatively new way of communicating, and it has its own emerging rules, grammar and social protocols. It may feel like a breezy way to chat, but you are actually creating a typed text—without an eraser or a delete button. Educators should not use instant messaging as a means of communicating with students. IM lacks the safeguards of ordinary communication between teacher and student. The authority you establish by your physical presence, your voice and your visual cues to the student are not present on-line. The world of IM is not a school environment. If your students know your IM screen name and use the same IM service that you use, they can place you on a “buddy list” and know when you are on-line. Your IM service provider — such as AOL or MSN — provides information on easy steps you can take to block this. Blogs, electronic bulletin boards and Web sites in general There are endless places to post your opinions — personal, political, professional — on the Internet. You can create your own blog. You can join listservs, participate in on-line forums and post messages on electronic bulletin boards. You may be a citizen of the Internet, but you are also always an educator.