Friday, February 24, 2017

Activity 5 -  Influence of Law and Ethics on professional practice.

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

Research New Zealand. (2014). Report: Digital Technologies in New Zealand Schools. Retrieved from

Education Council. (n.d). The Education Council Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers. Retrieved from…


  1. This is such a relevant issue today, and one that many face today.

    I am on board with your Facebook ideas and I have my own set of rules.
    1. Privacy settings on high-always.
    2. Never post anything that you wouldn't be happy with the whole world seeing.
    3. No "friending" parents or students.
    4. No school related posts.
    5. Always think before posting.

    I find this set of rules keeps my Facebook page pretty professional, albeit, somewhat boring! However, I have made these rules up for myself to follow.

    It is great that your school has addressed this issue, and included some guidelines for how to conduct yourself while using social media. I think my school needs this, and we have had some smalls issues that just keep popping up!

    Additionally, I know many teachers who do not follow any of these rules.

    Emma, do you think the Code of Ethics has clear enough information about this issue?

    This week, I read the paper by Alan Hall (2001), describing the ethical content taught to pre-service teachers. I think the course sounds great, and I wish I had the chance to participate in it.

    However, this is one paper, offered by one university. How do we get the message out there?

    Hall, A. (2001). What ought I to do, all things considered? An approach to the exploration of ethical problems by teachers. Paper presented at the IIPE Conference, Brisbane. Retrieved from

    1. Wow Sarah, thanks for your post. I think that we all need a little education on the safe use of social media and am pleased that some Universities are offering just that. Thanks for the link. The Code of Ethics is a good starting point and is basic as it relies on teachers knowing how to act professionally and ethically. It can be used to ask questions and make teachers' accountable but it is quite ambiguous.

  2. Ah yes, Facebook..... I totally agree with what you have stated in your post. For sure, society is moving faster with this form of connection than regulation / safeguarding can keep up with. Evidence of trying to block the holes as fast as they appear, are in the forms of ongoing development by facebook themselves. Additions to the most popular social media site on the planet, such as being able to adjust your privacy settings, removing comments or tags and giving the profile (user) more options to block, manage friend requests, report concerns. As an avid facebook user, such as yourself, I have found some aspects of Facebook change to assist with having more control of your profile and timeline. I enjoy the fact that I can share pictures of goings on in my life with my closest friend in the USA and keep in touch with family who also live overseas. I am disappointed that this year teachers have been blocked from this site. Just recently a colleague from another school posted a question on facebook relating to this very issue and asking why we (teachers) have been blocked potentially. My response was that it is potentially an ethical issue. The lines do get blurred for some between keeping the professional and personal life separate. There some teachers who have many students as 'friends' and I just don't agree with this. I have had quite a few 'friend requests' and this bothers me for many reasons. Firstly the fact that students even think that this is appropriate and show no sense of moral compass when it comes to adding teachers to their 'friends' list. Secondly, I really don't want students looking at what I get up to outside of work, pictures of my family or activities... this is all on a need - to - know bases. Sometimes students question why I wont add them and I find myself having to remind them that I am not their 'friend' and I like to keep professional and personal separate. You are right when you mention that some teachers are quite loose with facebook and could set themselves up for serious consequences - even unintentionally. Posting comments about work - even how much of a bad day you had because this happened with XXX , can get back to others. Common sense should prevail, but it is great that your school has a set of guidelines to help as well.
    Our school also has a Facebook page, which is used by student, parents and the wider community who can all post comments and upload picture and videos. 5,954 people 'like' the page.
    Facebook is also a common reason for fights at our school, as students post gossip or pictures of others without permission. We want students to have access to this social media while at school, as it is a normal part of their day to day life - which we can agree on because it is part of ours! yet at the same time stakeholders can be brought to harm and this then begs the question "is Facebook' really that necessary in schools?

    1. I think that Facebook as the most used Social media tool is probably necessary in schools to connect to communities as it is what we use on a daily basis. It is the norm.. I just find the blurring of what to post is a major issue. I'm sure that as a school we will make a page as we had a very successful one for our 125 year anniversary celebration recently which allowed past pupils to post pictures and share memories which was awesome. I think caution is a natural state as we know that the use of Facebook is fraught with dangers. Should it stop us using social media - No but there is some scaffolding that needs to go around it. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Good evening Emma
    I enjoyed reading your post and how you discussed the use of facebook. Our school has a facebook page where parents can access information that is posted by our school Principal about upcoming events, sports notices, and he also posts interesting readings and articles for them to look at. Anything that we, as teachers, want to post has to go through him and he then posts. I also use facebook to show my students pages that link to our learning which has been awesome. It does get tricky when you see adverts and your personal info can be seen by the kids at times. However I am a role model and have discussed the importance of them NOT having their own personal page etc because of their age. It is a shame that students use social media as a way of bullying and hurting others- but cyber bullying has been an issue for quite some time now and facebook unfortunately has now become another way platform for students and other people to do this. If we can help teach them the skills to be safe 21st century learners then that is a good place to start!
    Thanks for the read- doing a great job :)

    1. Thanks for your post reply Samantha. You are quite right we need to first educate our pupils on how to be safe using social media and not avoid using it altogether!

  4. Hi Emma

    Great to be able to connect with you as a fellow 'MindLabber!'

    Yes, Facebook is a potential minefield. We have a school page. This is administered by a few staff, and we have found it to be successful in our community. I think the key is to look at what works within your community, we have gone where the people are. There is always risk, but I am very much an advocate of educating our tamariki, whanau and our wider community rather than removing or blocking particular tools of communication.

    I found the NetSafe's recent (Nov 2016) white paper very informative with regard to Digital Citizenship -

    Our tamariki really are 'connected from the start' now, and I believe that it is our responsibility as educators to empower them to cyber smart as early as possible. A key part of this is educating their whanau, and the communities that they are a part of.

    A very thought provoking post for me - thanks for sharing.

    Ngā mihi

    1. Hey Juliet!

      We will meet one day I'm sure my virtual friend xx

      The link you have sent me is perfect as we are about to work on digital citizenship with staff and pupils. I totally agree with using tools to help connect the community and it will be used by our community but some educating needs to happen firstand questions asked and answered. Thanks for your reply.