The New York City Department of Education's Social Media Guidelines detail “recommended practices” for the use of social media both professionally and personally. The Guidelines cover Facebook, Twitter and other forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities; they do not cover texting and cellphone use.
The UFT believes that appropriate use of technology in the classroom fosters more engaged learning and inspires students to participate in their education in new and exciting ways. While the DOE has spent considerable time, effort and resources to integrate technology in the classroom, it is clear that its new Social Media Guidelines do more to discourage the use of this technology than to encourage its appropriate use. The UFT agrees that the Internet should be a safe place for members and students to do the work of teaching, learning and communicating, but the union doesn’t want to curtail appropriate uses of new technology that engage students and help them learn. The UFT hopes that its members who use social media sites productively and appropriately still have the desire to do so despite these restrictive guidelines.
That said, you need to be careful. Below is an overview of the new guidelines. This overview should not in any way be interpreted to replace or substitute for the official guidelines, which were created by the DOE and can be found here.
Your privacy settings on social media
The DOE puts the onus on you to monitor your own social media presence and maintain an awareness of current and future privacy settings. The UFT encourages you to review your existing social media site accounts to make sure they comply with these guidelines and to make the appropriate changes if they don’t.
Professional vs. personal social media
The DOE guidelines make the following distinction between professional and personal media (the following definitions are taken directly from the DOE guidelines):
Professional social media is a work-related social media activity that is either school-based (e.g., a DOE principal establishing a Facebook page for his/her school or a DOE teacher establishing a blog for his/her class), or non-school-based (e.g., a DOE office establishing a Facebook page to facilitate the office’s administration of a Chancellor’s Regulation).
Personal social media use is a non-work-related social media activity (e.g., a DOE central administrative employee establishing a Facebook page or a Twitter account for his/her own personal use).
Guidance for using professional social media
- Use the schools.nyc.gov email address that the DOE has assigned you for work-related correspondence.
- Have separate email accounts for personal life and work.
- If you regularly use your personal email for professional use, the DOE will consider it your professional email and hold you to that standard. If you have linked your professional social media site to a personal email address, you should immediately transition the site to a professional email address.
- You are required to get supervisor approval before creating (or get now if you already have created) a professional social media presence. Supervisors or their designees should be given administrative rights or access, including passwords, to these sites.
- Treat professional social media sites like the classroom or workplace
- Use privacy settings to control access to the site and “ensure” that communications ONLY reach the intended audience. The DOE recommends that professional social media sites generally should be private networks.
- Do not post personally identifiable student information of any kind without a signed parent release form.
- If a student posts a picture of another student on your social media site, take it down. You may want to advise students who participate on your site that they are prohibited by the DOE from posting such photographs on professional social media sites.
- There is no expectation of privacy for professional social media use.
- UFT members should neither volunteer nor be assigned to monitor school-wide social media sites. Notify your chapter leader if your administration has told you to monitor these sites. The DOE will regularly monitor professional social media sites.
- The DOE recommends that default settings for comments on professional media sites be turned off. Remember, if the default setting for comments is turned on, you must monitor the comments on that site on a daily basis.
Guidance for using personal social media
- Do not communicate personally with currently enrolled DOE students on personal social media sites. Banned communication includes, but is not limited to:
- Use common sense, professional judgment and caution.
- Do not “tag” photos or videos of DOE employees, volunteers, contractors or vendors without their permission.
- • Do not post personally identifiable student information or tag photos or videos of students on personal social media sites.
- These rules apply 24/7 every day of the year.
- Do not use the DOE logo or link to the DOE website or DOE materials.
- The UFT recommends that you not specify the DOE as an employer to avoid appearing in targeted web searches (i.e. use “literacy teacher” instead of “7th-grade literacy teacher at PS 123K”).
- Refuse or ignore requests from any New York City public school students to join social media networks.
- Do not give students your personal contact information.
- If you use social media for personal purposes, you should take immediate steps to remove current DOE students from those sites.
- Mandated reporting will be enforced for all social media use.
- Chancellor’s Regulations and other applicable laws will be enforced for all social media use. (See Section F, page 5 of the guidelines for information and links to other applicable state, federal and local laws.)
- The DOE will use these Guidelines for employee discipline.
- The DOE’s Social Media Guidelines apply only to DOE employees. Students are covered by the Student Discipline Code.
- Be aware that the DOE has a right to monitor your professional social media sites and has access to all of your public online behavior. If you have any concerns about a post, you should consult with the UFT before you post, not after.