Online Safety for Teachers

Advice from the New Zealand Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) ICT Advisory Committee

Web 2.0 tools can provide useful and powerful teaching and learning opportunities for teachers and students who
use them. However the insecure nature of the Internet environment can mean there is an element of risk for both
teachers and students.

A particular issue for teachers is that of maintaining appropriate student / teacher boundaries.
Communication online is often informal. It lacks the non-verbal clues of our face-to-face conversations and it is easy
to respond and publish before the time has been taken to consider exactly what the communication was about and
whether the quick-fire response really was the right one.

Be aware that people may associate your online activity with your school or with your job as a teacher.
Teachers should be aware that the publication of private and personal information in any online forum cannot be
controlled, Injudicious publication of personal information can provide opportunities for dishonest and
opportunistic individuals to explore, gather, distribute and manipulate personal information about other people,
without their knowledge and/or consent and may provide opportunities for identity thieves.
It is also becoming more common to see employment disputes involving the use or misuse of the Internet.

Employees have been dismissed from their jobs as a result of writing inappropriate or negative comments about
their employer online. Recruitment firms and potential employers are now regularly checking candidates by ‘looking
them up’ on Google or searching for their profiles on social networking sites.

So how do teachers keep themselves safe online?

  1. Remember activities online affect your life offline.
  2. Check your school policy.
  3. Maintain appropriate student / teacher boundaries.
  4. Do not post, in any forum, information you would not feel comfortable sharing with a stranger (including address,phone number, photographs, and party invitations). Don’t post embarrassing material.
  5. When using web tools including email, blogs, forums and social networking sites, consider using an appropriate
  6. pseudonym and/or email address instead of your full name.
  7. Take the time to read about the site you want to post information to. What is the site’s privacy policy? What are the terms of use? How does the site deal with misuse?
  8. If you want to use a social networking site for communication with students – set one up for this purpose and consider which site (e.g. Myspace, Bebo, Facebook) will be best for this use. Be clear about your goals for the use of this site – see the advice given earlier.
  9. Use the privacy tools available on the sites you control, control access; you may want to set privacy parameters to the maximum. Be aware that some social networking applications allow developers access to your information, which may then be made available to other organisations such as marketers.9. Reconsider the amount of detail you reveal about yourself – and your associates, including colleagues, students and family – online.
  10. Protect the privacy of your associates, including colleagues, students and family. Remember that the information you post about them, on your own site and other sites, may be available to people they do not wish to share that information with. This includes photographs.
  11.  Be careful about accepting friend requests from people you don’t know or trust.
  12. Have a neutral picture of yourself as your profile image on social networking sites.
  13. Before installation of any social networking application check the terms of use and check the developers of the application. Remove social networking applications that you are not using.
  14. Do not use the same password for social networking sites as you do for online banking and credit card accounts.
  15. Make sure you have anti-virus, anti-phishing and anti-spyware software on your computer that is running and up-to-date!

When others abuse your rights to privacy or publish inaccurate information online what can you do?

  1. Ask them to remove the material.
  2. Contact the site and request they remove the information (what is the site’s grievance procedure?)