The ethical dilemma I would like to address is one governing the use of the popular Social Media site ‘Facebook’.
Our school has at its heart the governing principles/ ethics that we should at all times provide our school community with:
1. Professionalism at all times
2. Quality teaching. Every child. Every day. Everyone responsible
3. We are here to serve our children and our community
The Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers governs our practice and as a profession we must abide by these. They are governed by four principles:
Autonomy (to treat people with the rights that are to be honoured and defended).
Justice (to share power and prevent the abuse of power).
Responsible Care (to do good and minimise harm to others).
Truth (to be honest with others and self).
Digital technologies and social media are now an integral part of society and are developing at a rapid pace. Their role in our daily lives and how we interact with one another are being determined before laws and ethics can safeguard societies use of them. We have a role and responsibility as educators to ensure all stakeholders are aware of the ethics that govern what we do.
Our staff use ‘Facebook’ for a variety of reasons. I personally cannot go past many days without logging in, lurking and commenting, and I love the new emoticons. It is part of my daily ritual and one that makes me feel more connected with oversees friends, past colleagues, current friends and I delight in acquiring new friends. I am very aware of the Code of Ethics set out by the Teachers Council and feel I am responsible in my use of Social Media and always think before I post. I fear that colleagues and friends in the teaching profession are not adhering to the Code and are opening themselves and their schools to serious consequences.
Our school policy states that:
Anyone using social media needs to be aware that any information published, including images, becomes public and out of your control; it can be shared, reposted, altered, and exist forever – the internet never forgets...
In their use of social media, teachers have extra responsibility in preserving confidentiality, and maintaining professional standards.
Using social media in your personal life:
Teachers' personal use of social media must also be governed by confidentiality and professional standards. Teachers must:
· Keep privacy settings appropriate, and make sure you understand the terms of service of the social media platforms you use, specifically, how your posts may be accessed, re-used, or republished.
· Maintain a professional boundary. Consider:
o whether it is appropriate to extend or accept friend or connection requests with parents, students, or others involved with the school
o using a separate email address for your social media interactions
o how material or images posted of you reflect on you as a professional associated with the school.
· Avoid personal use of social media during school hours/time.
I believe that these are good guidelines and are probably similar to policies in other schools. However, I believe that in New Zealand we are becoming very lax in our use of Social Media and that lines are blurred in what is acceptable to post. A recent visit to England highlighted this for me as I was not allowed to take photos of any pupils from my past school (fairly obvious for privacy reasons) but I also could not take photos of the school building to post on Social Media. The fact that many staff, parents, teacher aides etc. view posting images to ‘Facebook’ of children at events as harmless is quite alarming. Many teachers have parents as personal friends and therefore see friendship on ‘Facebook’ as acceptable.
As a school community it is crucial that we address our current use of ‘Facebook’ at the personal level for all stake holders before we even consider creating a ‘Facebook page’ for our School Community. Our community has a high proportion of Smart phone use and would therefore benefit from posts about school events. As one of the Digital technology team members I am very hesitant about creating and then policing the content of the page. I’m sure that this is an issue in many schools.
Ministry of Education. (2015). Digital Technology: Safe and responsible use in schools. Retrieved from http://www.education.govt.nz/assets/Documents/School/Managing-and-supporting-students/DigitalTechnologySafeAndResponsibleUseInSchs.pdf
Research New Zealand. (2014). Report: Digital Technologies in New Zealand Schools. Retrieved from http://2020.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Digital-Technologies-in-School-2014-FINAL.pdf