Social Media for Teachers 101: Basic Do’s and Don’ts

Social Media for Teachers 101Social Media for Teachers 101:  Basic Do’s and Don’ts

Guidelines Just for Teachers

Social Media for TeachersNot sure what the real “rules” are about social media for teachers? Are you wanting to use social media more, but just thinking about the twitter icon fills you with trepidation? 

Whether your district has a clear social media policy, or none at all, here are some basic do’s and don’ts of social media, just for educators.  More teachers are using social media than ever before, there are a bajillion social networks to choose from- follow these guidelines to get started the right way. They’ll keep you out of hot water and in a strategic safety zone, whether you’re using social media for networking with other educators, following the news, getting recipes on Pinterest,  for your side job or business (hey, a teacher’s gotta eat!) or keeping up with your Auntie Marge.

Basic Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media: DO’s

1. DO feel free to share status updates and comment on others’ updates. In a public forum, keep it positive, light, and stay away from nasty, heated discussions.  I usually like to share one positive quote a day, usually in the morning before school hours. I have a work friend who told me she really likes the quotes in the morning.

2. If you feel comfortable, DO connect with coworkers whom you feel safe, comfortable, and friendly with (as we are apt to do in the teaching field). If your administrator sends you a friend request, only connect with him or her if you feel totally cool about it. Your teaching contract does not mandate you to be friends with any of your colleagues.

3. DO control your privacy SETTINGS.   Facebook changes their privacy policy about as quickly as a four-year-old’s attention span.  If you don’t want to be found by ANYONE, make sure to really pay close attention to those settings.  You can control your Facbook privacy settings here. 

4. If you are running a tutoring business, giving music lessons, or running a part-time business online (like I am), DO set up a FREE Facebook business page.  Just remember that on the business page, anyone can see what you post. It’s a professional and quick way, though, to set up a web presence. And, after you get 30 likes, you can track and analyze your traffic using Facebook insights.  You can see my page here as an example.  

4. DO select a couple of social media networks on which to connect with family and friends.

a. If you’re totally over Facebook, I recommend Google+ because their privacy settings seem to be easier to control.

b. If you just want to browse around and have fun, consider hopping on Pinterest. This newer social network attracts more affluent, highly educated users. I enjoy getting ideas for places to travel, recipes, and art projects. A coworker made a cute craft project she found on Pinterest.  It’s also a great venue for finding inspirational quotes, lesson plans, and decorating ideas. (By the way, most Pinterest users are women.

Social Media for Teachers 101

c. If you are very concerned about privacy, I DO NOT recommend Twitter. Even if your account may be protected, you don’t know if somebody with an unprotected account may blast the world with your tweets.

dos and don ts of social mediad. I also don’t recommend Instagram if you are serious about keeping your private life sealed tight.  They are owned by Facebook. As we know, Facebook has a slippery and ever-changing privacy policy.  I have an Instagram account, but my updates are set to private, and I choose carefully whom I add to my account.

5. DO tag and post with care, especially when you’re posting pictures of others. How would you like it if someone posted an unflattering picture of you with your muffin top sticking out of your t-shirt after you’ve been scrubbing the oven all day, or moving into your new classroom? Ugh.

6. DO unfollow negative people and relatives, if you feel the emotional need to.  A high school friend of mine deactivated her Facebook account because a relative was so nasty to her. She reactivated her account after a few days, though, because she missed the positive interaction with friends. If you are hesitant to defriend someone because of the offline rifts that could ensue, consider simply unfolling that person’s updates or restricting your profile to them so that they don’t see that everything that you’re up to.  Here’s how to unfollow– it’s really fast (and refreshing not to see their griping in your newsfeed).

Basic Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media: DON’Ts

Some of these may seem like common sense.

1. DON’T friend your students on FaceBook. A few years ago, I taught at a local private school for the summer. In a staff meeting, the administrator (who also happened to have a law degree) admonished us NOT to become FaceBook friends with student. A novice teacher did not know about this guideline, and had friended a few of the students already. He was mortified, as he had no bad intentions, and I think he unfriended them, just to be safe.


a. Some teachers set up a separate profile to keep up with their students. If you feel comfortable doing that, that’s your choice.    I recommend waiting until after they have graduated and/or moved on, are over 18.

b. If you know and work with the parents, and have spoken with them, or work in a rural community, social lines can get blurry. Use your best judgment.

Social Media for Teachers

2. DON’T mix excessive drinking and social media, especially if you have a hard time controlling what you write after 3 glasses of wine. Or if you black out and forget what you post.

3.  DON’T post pictures of yourself  partying or drinking alcohol, even after hours.

4.  DON’T post pictures of yourself engaged in drinking or serving alcohol, around alcohol, even if you bartend, wait tables, or cocktail on weekends and school breaks, or work part-time in a medical marijuana dispensary.  What you do after hours is your business, don’t make it everyone’s.  DO NOT post pictures of your party stash (like a bottle of Bombay Gin, microbrew beers, and a giant pile of weed).

5. DON’T post pictures or videos of yourself naked or semi-clothed.

6. DON’T post pictures of yourself smoking marijuana (even if it’s legal in your state, like here in Washington).  One teacher in Colorado committed  items 2-5 on this DON’T list and got fired. I don’t know how she got hired or made it through student teaching with her  ludicrous behavior.

7. DON’T  overpost. If you post a change to your status every 3.14 minutes ALL the time, instead of looking like you have an exciting life, you look like the kid in the back of the classroom who will do ANYTHING for attention. If you’re in a closed Facebook discussion group, then you can post more frequently–just make sure it’s after school hours or on breaks.

Dos and Don ts of social media for teachers 1018. DON’T post on social media during work hours (unless you have it prescheduled using a dynamite social media scheduler called Hootsuite.…more on that another time..You can schedule your tweets and facebook posts wayyyyyyy ahead of time, just like you’d plan out a social studies unit on the Revolutionary War).

9. DON’T just share about yourself. Remember, it’s social media, not me-me-me-media! Here’s a post on more of what NOT to do.

10. DON’T write nasty comments about your students, their families, coworkers, or administrators. Remember, HIPPA and FERPA  laws! Would you want your doctor writing updates about you? A teacher in Charlotte, NC wrote “I’m feeling pissed because I hate my students” on her Facebook page. She faced termination.

11. DON’T assume that you are protected by your First Amendment rights. Like it or not, teachers are held to a different moral standard than the rest of society.

A smart rule of thumb is: if you don’t want it to be on the front page of the New York Times or the National Enquirer, don’t post it.  If you have any questions or have constructive comments, please post them below.

P.S. Don’t believe me? Here’s what the General Counsel to the NEA wrote about teacher’s Social Networking nightmares.



Share, like, send
Nancy Carroll Written by:


  1. Ellis Reyes
    July 12, 2013

    Nancy – I would offer that the rules are, or should be, even more restrictive for male teachers. All it takes is one vindictive accusation for a teacher to be put on administrative leave pending the investigation. All the while, the rumor mill is churning and a reputation, and a career, are ruined. And what are the consequences imposed on a false accuser? None. They don’t want to discourage legitimate complaints.

    • July 12, 2013

      Thank you for your comment. You make some excellent points. I’ve heard tragic stories of innocent male teachers’ lives ruined by rumors and false accusations.

  2. October 11, 2013

    It is sad that some of these things are not common sense topics for adults. As a former teacher I had separate personal and professional social media accounts that students could or could not have access to depending on security levels. It was important for students to feel like they could connect with me after school hours via social media, it was especially great for sporting events students wanted me to attend and other extra curricular activities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *