As a teacher, it is important that you look after your professional reputation, and this is just as relevant online as offline. It is a good idea to review online content which relates to you; carrying out a search on your name using public search engines can help identify old posts, websites, images or blogs which might be viewed by whoever wishes to look. You should also review your social network account(s), particularly the content and the privacy settings in place. Think carefully about the type of photo that you use as your profile picture. Privacy settings on social networking services (SNS) allow you to control who can see your content; including your photos, albums, wall posts, status updates and personal information, and you can limit these to ‘Friends’ or customise further.
If you are concerned about any of the content which appears, it might be necessary to make it private, to deactivate old accounts or to contact the relevant person or websites involved for further assistance regarding removal. If you are not sure, it is probably best to treat all information that you post as being potentially public and act accordingly. SNS privacy settings also enable you to control whether your profile is included in public search listings. It is important to be mindful of how governors, pupils, parents, and employers may view you and your online content. Be aware also, that schools have rules about anything which causes harm or distress to others or brings the name of the school into disrepute, including content posted out of school or out of school hours. Some teachers have found themselves being subjects of disciplinary proceedures as a result of content they have created on SNS, so always think before you post.
Protecting Yourself while using Online Services or Mobile Phones
It is good practice to set a PIN or passcode for your mobile phone. Phones can carry large amounts of personal data, including photos, and PIN codes can help to keep these protected and prevent others accessing and misusing your content. Some teachers’ professional standing has been compromised after losing their phones, as a consequence of personal data being forwarded or made public. When using SNS such as Facebook or other applications on smartphones, it is important to remember to log out. Not logging out means that you are continually signed in, which again can be compromising if your phone gets into the wrong hands and there is no PIN protection. In a similar way, when you are at school, take care to prevent others gaining access to your school account, particularly when using PCs in classrooms or terminals that are also accessible to pupils and others — make sure that you log out from your own school account after using it. Don’t leave your desk unsupervised while you are logged in.
It is also good practice to ensure that the passwords to e-mail accounts, bank accounts, SNS and other services that you use are strong and secure — with a mixture of lower and upper case letters, symbols and numbers. This is to prevent other users from accessing your accounts and helps to prevent identity theft. Changing these passwords regularly is also recommended.
The DfE have produced a pamphlet reagrding safeguarding staff who have problems with Cyber-bullying which you may find informative (right click link) or read on below:
Do you have a cyber-bullying or digital safety concern?
The Safer Internet Centre has been funded by the European Commission to provide a Helpline for professionals who work with children and young people in the UK, specifically tackling the area of e-safety. They provide support with all aspects of digital and online issues such as social networking sites, cyber-bullying, sexting, online gaming and child protection online. The Helpline aims to resolve issues professionals face about themselves, such as protecting professional identity and reputation, as well as young people in relation to online safety.
Where possible, queries will be responded to within 3 hours (during the office opening hours). More complex issues may take longer to fully resolve, and Helpline staff will keep service users updated throughout the process. It is primarily a signposting, advice, and mediation service, any urgent risk to children should be dealt with via normal safeguarding procedures. Due to the nature of the service, confidentiality cannot be guaranteed, they will endeavor to protect anonymity where possible and will discuss beforehand if they need to share information with other relevant agencies.
Hours of operation are Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm. The Helpline can be emailed at any time, and these will be responded to during our normal working hours. They also have a live Skype chat service available during our operating hours – professionalshelpline
The Helpline is an Associate Member of the Helplines Assocation, and the Anti Bullying Alliance.
The UK Safer Internet Centre is also a member of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS).
You may find the following documents of interest – they are not too long or onerous to read: