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Guidelines for Educators Using Social Networking Sites

ATTENTION: These guide lines have been revised and the newest version is available here. - Doug



My friend and colleague, Tech Director Jen Hegna over in the Byron (MN) schools developed this set of guidelines for the staff in her district. (She was motivated, she said, partially by posts here and here on the Blue Skunk. Cool!) Anyway she's given permission for me to share her work here and says readers are welcome to use and adopt as well:



Guidelines for Educators Using Social Networking Sites
August 2009


Social networks are rapidly growing in popularity and use by all ages in society. The most popular social networks are web-based, commercial, and not purposely designed for educational use. They include sites like Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, and Xanga. For individuals, social networking sites provide tremendous potential opportunities for staying in touch with friends and family.


Other educational networking sites are also growing in use. These sites are usually restricted to only certain users and not available to the general public. These include resources such as Moodle, educational wikis, a professional online communities such as the Classroom2.0 Ning, or district adoptions of online applications such as Google Apps for Education.


As educators we have a professional image to uphold and how we conduct ourselves online helps determine this image. As reported by the media, there have been instances of educators demonstrating professional misconduct while engaging in inappropriate dialogue about their schools and/or students or posting pictures and videos of themselves engaged in inappropriate activity. Some educators feel that being online shields them from having their personal lives examined. But increasingly, how educators’ online identities are too often public and can cause serious repercussions.


One of the hallmarks of social networks is the ability to “friend” others – creating a group of others that share interests and personal news. The district strongly discourages teachers from accepting invitations to friend students within these social networking sites. When students gain access into a teacher’s network of friends and acquaintances and are able to view personal photos, the student-teacher dynamic is altered. Friending students provide more information than one should share in an educational setting. It is important to maintain a professional relationship with students to avoid relationships that could cause bias in the classroom.  


For the protection of your professional reputation, the district recommends the following practices:


Friends and friending

  •  Do not accept students as friends on personal social networking sites. Decline any student-initiated friend requests.
  •  Do not initiate friendships with students
  •  Remember that people classified as  “friends” have the ability to download and share your information with others.
  •  If you wish to use networking protocols as a part of the educational process, please work with your administrators and technology staff to identify and use a restricted, school-endorsed networking platforms.



  •  Do not use commentary deemed to be defamatory, obscene, proprietary, or libelous. Exercise caution with regards to exaggeration, colorful language, guesswork, obscenity, copyrighted materials, legal conclusions, and derogatory remarks or characterizations.
  • Weigh whether a particular posting puts your effectiveness as a teacher at risk.
  • Post only what you want the world to see. Imagine your students, their parents, your administrator, visiting your site. It is not like posting something to your web site or blog and then realizing that a story or photo should be taken down. On a social networking site, basically once you post something it may be available, even after it is removed from the site.
  • Do not discuss students or coworkers or publicly criticize school polcies or personnel.
  • Do not post images that include students.


  • Due to security risks, be cautious when installing the external applications that work with the social networking site. Examples of these sites are calendar programs and games.
  • Run updated malware protection to avoid infections of spyware and adware that social networking sites might place on your computer.
  • Be careful not to fall for phishing scams that arrive via email or on your wall, providing a link for you to click, leading to a fake login page.
  • Visit your profile’s security and privacy settings. At a minimum, educators should have all privacy settings set to “only friends”. “Friends of friends” and “Networks and Friends” open your content to a large group of unknown people. Your privacy and that of your family may be a risk. People you do not know may be looking at you, your home, your kids, your grandkids, - your lives!


Please stay informed and cautious in the use of all new networking technologies.




Written by Jen Hegna, Information Systems Manager, Byron (MN) Public Schools



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Reader Comments (31)

Hi Laura,

You and other writers are making me realize how important this is. Your concern about advertising is not restricted only to educational networking sites, either. I'll be thinking about this.



Thanks, Carl. It sounds like the document could use some revision to help clarify this. I appreciate the "outside eyes."


Thanks, Mary. If you would, please share any feedback you get with us. Unless I "drop" dead, I plan to revise this again.


Hi Ian,

I don't have any problem with teachers engaging students with educational networking sites. My concern lies when the personal mixes with the professional creating at least the perception of the breakdown of teacher/student relationships which like doctor/patient relationships have traditionally had restraints in them. If you hadn't used "almost" in your first sentence, I'd feel better.

I agree a tool is all in how you use it. But I think some tools are better suited for some purposes than others. (You can use your car to pull a manure spreader, I supposed.) Rather than use your personal Facebook account, I believe you could accomplish all the positive things you write about using a Ning devoted only to educational purposes and with more functionality.

Thanks for the comment and all the best,



I've gained from this conversation as well!


August 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Thank you for sharing this information..

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStudent Talk

Thank you for sharing this information...

September 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStudent Talk

I really appreciate this article. Here are my two cents:

I recently started a twitter account with the explicit purpose of posting homework assignments. Students who are interested in being reminded of homework can sign up to follow the tweets and have them sent to the cell phones or they can choose to just check twitter when they get home. I think this is working effectively. Homework completion rates have improved.

I have an e-mail account for every class so that they can turn in homework electronically. This also provided them with a way of storing works in progress.

Also, because I work in a poverty district many of my students do not have internet at home. Because of this I gave my cell phone number (a prepaid line used only for this purpose) to parents so they could text me questions or reach me after 3pm which is when our office closes. What I didn't realize at the time was that when students had questions about their homework, and their parents couldn't answer them, the parents would give the student my cell phone number.

Because of this I had to impose a texting only rule so that there would be documentation of all conversations. I did this because I am a young teacher (2nd year) and I teach high school. I am only 4-6 years removed from my students in terms of age.

I have had no problems with students abusing the priviledge and no complaints from parents about it. One thing I have noticed is that their signatures have become less graphic and their grammar has improved greatly. (I won't answer a question if it is text language.) Overall I approve of using these types of methods to keep in touch with kids. I know ahead of time if they aren't going to be at school. I can assign make-up work. I can provide some tutoring. And in one specific case the student has a lifeline that they can use if they need help.

I would love it if my district had the funds to purchase access to a different type of site, but they would also have to have the money to provide internet access for students from home; which I don't see happening in the new future.

November 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChristina Davis

Hi Christina,

Thanks for sharing your experiences. They sound very practical and effective.

I sense educators are going to be a long time getting this all figured out.


November 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

The only problem is some institutes try to impose censorship by blocking websites.
However, I often use Facebook for communicating with my friends, family and co-workers.
That is how I found this site - Unblock Facebook

June 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Sometimes I want to know what? Everybody is a little more trust one another. Sharing my opinion in this way can significantly peak

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChat

Clear, concise, and informative. Thanks for the helpful sharing! This article had been very useful. Social networks are rapidly growing in popularity and use by all ages in society. The most popular social networks are web-based, commercial, and not purposely designed for educational use. They include sites like Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, and Xanga. For individuals, social networking sites provide tremendous opportunities for staying in touch with friends and family. Educational networking sites are also growing in use. These sites are used by educators for both professional development and as a teaching tool, and are usually restricted to selected users and not available to the general public. These include networking tools such as Moodle, educational wikis, specially created Nings, or district adoptions of online applications such as Saywire, Live@edu or Google Apps for Education. -Charles

August 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKPO

Thanks, Charles. This, I'm sure, is helpful to my readers.


August 12, 2010 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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June 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHip Hop Songs

Hi Doug, it would be GREAT if there were some guidelines that could help support teachers who usually use Social networking to communicate peaople

September 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterpeter

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