Proceed with Caution: Seven Tips for Social Networking in Education

Posted by Matt Berringer on March 14, 2014

Social MediaBy Dr. Ramiro Zuniga

The use of social networking is continuing to gain ground in education. Those supporting the use of social networking with students proclaim that it is a great way to reach out and to keep students excited about learning. Moreover, these individuals will also suggest that the use of social networking can lead to higher grades and less absenteeism. Of course, there are just as many people opposed.

I don’t want to argue my position on the topic. Perhaps I will save that for another day.

For the time being, I want to focus on those who are considering using this technology with their students. First of all, I would suggest a more attentive manner by which to use social networking.

Let me begin by sharing two real life stories that I became aware of.

The first story begins with one of my graduate students sharing that she was making her second attempt at using social networking with her student athletes. Curious, I asked her why it was a second attempt. She told me that in her first experience, she innocently congratulated a couple of her players on their level of play after a victorious game. Before she knew it, parents began posting negative comments about her playing favorites with the two athletes. Other parents questioned why she had not complimented the team.

In a second case, a teacher shared that she once fell into a trap after following negative posts about herself. It seems that students posted their thoughts regarding her teaching skills and level of intelligence. Although she tried her best to squelch each negative comment with comments of her own, it was pointless. In the end, she ended up with complaints against her for getting into a social media war with students. Incidentally, none of the students involved were actually from any of her classes.

I share these stories so that the following advice makes sense. In both cases, these teachers could have lost their jobs. Fortunately for them, they did not. It is never enough to say that these teachers should have had better sense. One should never assume that common sense will always prevail. After all, social networking is still relatively new in education. Teachers are still in the process of figuring out the best way to use this tool.

Again, I am not going to recommend whether a teacher should or should not use social networking with students. I will simply advise those who do to proceed with caution. As depicted in the stories above, it is easy for social networking to lead to trouble. The following tips should assist in preventing such occurrences:

  • Inform parents that you use social networking with your students.
  • Inform your campus administrators that you use social networking with your students.
  • Establish and communicate your ground rules to students, parents, and administration.
  • Do not mix your friends. Keep your students on one account and your personal friends in another.
  • Restrict your account to include your students only.
  • Use formal language. Do not use texting slang or acronyms.
  • Contact students early in the evening.

As we all know, education is full of opportunities by which to reach out to students. Just remember that when it comes to social networking, the world is watching (students, parents, administrators, media, etc.).

Be careful out there.

Topics: education, social networking, K-12