Social Media Privacy for Teachers

Introduction

As a kid, you probably never gave much thought to your teachers’ personal lives. Maybe you never even imagined they had a life outside of school grounds.

As a teacher now, you know how far off the mark those assumptions were. Being a teacher doesn’t mean you cease being human. You have a social life, too – though your students might be shocked to realize that teachers actually have a home outside of school, go grocery shopping or to the movies, and spend time with their own friends and family, just like everyone else.

But even though you do – and should! – have a life outside school, that doesn’t mean your students need to know all about it. Unfortunately, being a teacher means you have to be extra-vigilant about guarding your privacy.

Before the rise of social media, that wasn’t such an issue. Sure, you might run into your students or their parents while you’re out shopping or at the movies, but that’s not exactly an invasion of privacy (unless they’re questioning your culinary or cinematic choices).

But when 81% of teens are on social media, as a teacher you need to be careful about what you’re sharing and who you’re sharing it with, or face dire consequences.

That doesn’t mean you should avoid social media altogether – in fact, using social media and even using it to interact with your students can be a powerful way to connect with them.

So, how do you strike this balance? Facebook and other platforms don’t make it easy, but if you dig around in your settings, you can avoid issues while still connecting with friends, family, and even students online. Here’s how.

Illustrated Guide

Illustrated guide to social media privacy for teachers

Even with all of the privacy tweaks you can make to social media profiles, these sites are still run by companies you don’t control. Privacy setting defaults may change over time, and companies may share your information internally with third parties. Check your settings regularly and never post anything that you wouldn’t want accidentally leaked.

Best Practices for Teachers

Follow these Quick Steps to Protect Yourself on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & WhatsApp

Facebook

To protect your privacy on Facebook:

  • Click on the privacy icon
  • Select the “Privacy Checkup” box in the drop-down menu for the guided tutorial
  • Once the new tutorial box opens up:
    • Click on the drop-down menu and change who sees your posts to “Friends”
    • Click “Next Step”
    • Change the privacy settings for all of your apps to either “Only Me” or “Friends”
    • Delete any apps you don’t want associated with Facebook here
    • Set privacy for your profile by changing all personal information to either “Only Me” or “Friends”
    • Click “Finish Up,” and then “Close”

This will:

  • Secure most of your Facebook content
  • Keep others from sharing your content shared publicly
  • Here are a few more settings you should verify and change:
    • Select the privacy icon
    • Click on “Who Can See My Stuff” and set to “Friends”
    • Click on “Who Can Contact Me?” to enable “strict filtering” and to set privacy to “Friends of Friends”

While most of this is covered under the tutorial, you should still verify each setting independently

  • What to do if a parent or student contacts you on Facebook:
    • Block them under your privacy settings by selecting: “How do I stop someone from bothering me?” and enter their email
      This keeps students or parents from contacting you directly via Facebook messaging
    • While private messages might seem innocent, they create a situation of potential impropriety that could get you into trouble with your employer.

Lastly, tighten your privacy settings:

  • Select the privacy icon
  • Click “See More Settings”
  • Click “Who Can Look Me Up?”
  • Set both of these questions to “Friends”:
    • “Who can look you up using the email address you provided?”
    • “Who can look you up using the phone number you provided?”
  • Look under “Do you want other search engines to link to your timeline?” and:
    • Uncheck the box next to “Let other search engines link to your timeline”

What this does:

  • It keeps your timeline out of search engines
  • It prevents anyone but your friends from looking you up in Facebook search

Users may still be able to find you. Here’s how to check anything others try to post on your timeline:

  • Select the privacy icon and click on “Timeline and Tagging”
  • Change “Who Can Post on Your Timeline” to “Only Me” for strict privacy
  • Set “Review Posts Friends Tag You in Before They Appear on Your Timeline?” to “On”
  • To protect others from seeing where you’ve been tagged:
    • Set “Who can see posts you've been tagged in on your timeline?” to “Only Me”
  • To keep other from posting private things on your wall:
    • Set “Who can see what others post on your timeline?” to either “Friends,” if you don’t mind friends seeing what others post, or “Only Me” If you want strict privacy
  • To prevent Facebook from automatically tagging you in photos and making them public:
    • Set “Review tags people add to your own posts before the tags appear on Facebook?” to “Enabled”
  • For the greatest privacy and to prevent others who may comment and tag others in your comments areas:
    • Set “When you're tagged in a post, who do you want to add to the audience if they aren't already in it?” to “Only Me”
    • Set “Who sees tag suggestions when photos that look like you are uploaded?” to either “Friends” or “No One”
  • Strengthen your security settings to reduce the risk of account hijackings:
    • Select the privacy icon
    • Click “Security” under “General” on the left side
  • For notifications when you or someone else tries to access your Facebook account from an unknown computer or mobile device:
    • Select “Login Notifications” and check “Email,” “Text Message,” or both
    • Click “Save Changes”
  • To prevent anyone by you to access your Facebook account, change your privacy settings or post to your wall:
    • Select “Login Approvals”
    • Check “Require a security code to access my account from unknown browsers”
    • Enter the code that Facebook sends to your phone

If you follow each of these suggestions, you’ll be able to engage with your friends on Facebook, and have fun without compromising your privacy.

Instagram

Instagram privacy settings aren’t as robust as Facebook:

  • Default settings allow everyone and anyone to see your profile and posts
  • You can’t change those settings on your desktop or laptop
  • Fortunately, you can change those settings using your mobile device

On iOS devices:

  • Click or tap on the profile icon
  • Tap the “settings” icon
  • Turn on the “private account” setting

On Android

  • Tap the profile icon
  • Tap the “settings” icon
  • Turn on “Private Account”

On Windows Phones

  • Tap the profile icon
  • Tap “Edit Profile”
  • Turn on “Posts are Private”

Once your account is private:

  • You will be safe while on-site but not off-site
  • Even hashtagged photos won’t be available publicly if you’ve set everything to private

If you share a photo to another social network:

  • The image will be seen on that network
  • A permalink will follow back to your profile
  • Users won’t be able to see it unless they are approved followers

Watch out for publicly commenting on another Instagram publicly-shared post or photo, because:

  • Your username will be clickable to everyone
  • This happens even if your profile is set to “private”

Avoid uploading images through third-party applications:

They can be indexed in search engines

This happens even when your Instagram profile is set to “private”

If you’ve already accidentally posted through a third-party access, revoke access for that app:

  • Log in on your laptop
  • Click on your name and photo
  • Select “Edit Profile”
  • Select “Manage Applications”
  • Click “Revoke Access” on the upper right of each application
  • This is the only way to be sure that no 3rd-party app is posting on your behalf.

Finally, disable follower suggestions to minimize accidentally following students or parents:

  • Click your profile picture from a desktop or laptop computer
  • Click “edit profile”
  • Un-check “Similar Account Suggestions”
  • Click “submit”

Twitter

Protecting your privacy on Twitter is easy. All you have to do is:

  • Access your security and privacy settings through the settings icon
  • Scroll to “tweet privacy”
  • Check the box labeled, “Protect my Tweets”
  • Click “Save”
  • Even when others follow you, they won’t see your tweets

WhatsApp

Like many social media sites, WhatsApp sets your default privacy settings to public, but you can easily change that. The process varies only slightly between different mobile devices.

On iOS:

  • Go to “Settings”
  • Select “Account”
  • Click on “Privacy”

On Android:

  • Go to “Menu”
  • Click on “Settings”
  • Select “Account”
  • Click on “Privacy”

On Blackberry:

  • Go to “Settings”
  • Select “Account”
  • Click on “Privacy Settings”

On Blackberry 10:

  • Swipe down from the top of the screen to access “Settings”
  • Click on “Privacy Settings”

On the Nokia S40:

  • Go to “Options”
  • Click on “Settings”
  • Select “Account”
  • Click on “Privacy”

On the Nokia S60:

  • Go to “Options”
  • Click on “Settings”
  • Select “General”
  • Click on “Privacy”

On Windows Phone:

  • Tap the three dots - the Settings icon at the bottom of the screen
  • Click on “Settings”
  • Select “Account”
  • Click on “Privacy”

General Visibility tips:

  • Change the visibility of your profile photo and status to either “My Contacts” or “Nobody”
  • The safest option is “Nobody,” since nobody will be able to see anything
  • If you shut off read receipts, you won’t send them or be able to see other posts.
  • Read receipts will always be seen in group chats regardless of your privacy settings.
  • Don’t allow WhatsApp to track your location when prompted.

Even with all of the privacy tweaks you can make to social media profiles, these sites are still run by companies you don’t control. Privacy setting defaults may change over time, and companies may share your information internally with third parties. Check your settings regularly and never post anything that you wouldn’t want accidentally leaked.

Sources


81% of teens are on social media - PewInternet.org

Social Media Nightmares - NEA.org