Teachable Moments & Modern Technology
The Promise and Peril of Educators & Social Media

From kindergarten to university, kids these days are immersed in technology. From first graders with smartphones to university students with laptops and tablets, technology as a teaching tool is so commonplace it is sometimes easy to overlook.

Social media is just as ubiquitous as the laptops, tablets and smartphones that host it, and more and more educators are taking advantage of Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to communicate with their students and reinforce the lessons of the classroom.

Like everything else in the world of technology, the use of social media in the classroom offers both pitfalls and perils. When properly employed, social media can be a valuable teaching tool, but there are also some significant downsides that teachers and parents need to be aware of.

If you have a child in school, it is a good idea to ask their teacher about the use of social media, both inside and outside the classroom. Some teachers ask for permission to friend or follow their students, while others go further and use social media platforms to communicate and stay in touch.

While many parents welcome this kind of communication and open engagement, others may be uncomfortable with this amount of sharing. They may worry that engagement on social media blurs the lines between teacher and student, or that conversations outside the classroom are inappropriate. 

No matter which side of the aisle parents come down on, it is important that they share their feelings and understand the rules the school uses to control behavior both in and out of the classroom. Many schools have implemented strong cyber-bullying policies and codes of student behavior, and violating those rules could spell trouble for the affected students.

Knowing the ground rules ahead of time can protect both parents and students, but discussing the school’s social media policy also provides a valuable teachable moment. It is important for every young person who uses social media to understand the distinction between personal and professional communication, and this understanding will serve them well throughout the rest of their lives.

Many young people do not fully grasp the importance of separating their personal and professional lives until it is too late. There have been many news stories about otherwise qualified applicants who were denied jobs due to their social media postings or unprofessional online photos. Those news stories drive home the message that the irresponsible use of social media can be dangerous, but there are things parents can do to protect their sons and daughters before these problems occur.

Having an honest conversation about the smart use of social media, and doing it at an early age, is one of the best things parents can do to protect their kids and make their lives easier. Parents can talk to their kids and set some common sense ground rules before the first social media account is created, and they can keep tabs on their children and make sure the rules are being followed.

Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have their fair share of both promise and peril. Whether their sons and daughters are still in primary school or getting ready for university, reviewing and understanding the institution’s social media policy is the best way to avoid unwanted surprises.