Social media guidelines for educators

  • Awareness
  • 23/01/2020
  • Maltese Safer Internet Centre

Online communication has become our primary means of communication. While one might enter into lengthy debates about the consequences this has on society, it is undeniable that such communication tools have had an impact on us. The Maltese Safer Internet Centre (SIC) has developed guidelines for social media targeted to educators.

Online communication is revolutionary in that, like the television, it allows us to reach a mass audience. However, unlike television, it simultaneously allows for instant two-way communication. This form of communication has eliminated distances and flattened traditional social hierarchies. The weight of this new reality is felt by all, particularly by educators – as professionals are expected to guide students through the intricate dynamics of growing up with such tools in hand. The complexities that arise from the use of these new technologies are arguably more challenging to adults as "digital immigrants".

For this reason, BeSmartOnline! – a consortium coordinated by the Malta Communications Authority (MCA), bringing together FSWS (Aġenzija Appoġġ), the Office of the Commissioner for Children and the Directorate for Learning and Assessment Programmes (DLAP), particularly the PSCD Department – launches  campaigns to give parents advice that will help them understand the complexities of online communications and feel confident talking to their children about online safety. As part of this, the Maltese Ministry for Education has formed a working group tasked with the drafting of a set of guidelines which shall support teachers in their use of electronic communication, particularly social media tools.

Social media tools provide exciting opportunities for educators to deepen their knowledge, teach, create and communicate. These technologies have made the profession more vulnerable to risks associated with privacy and reputation, among others. When coupled with various awareness raising initiatives implemented through the BeSmartOnline! project, these guidelines offer a strong reference point which educators can use to avoid falling victim to a host of online risks. The aim of the social media guidelines for educators is to inform educators on how they may minimise risks when using electronic communications and social networking, thereby ensuring that they maintain professional boundaries and trust in their profession. Today's consultation also provided the opportunity for union management and other stakeholders to voice their concerns and provide their feedback on the draft presented.

Addressing the audience, the Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Sports and Voluntary Organisations, Clifton Grima, said that "electronic communications and social media create new opportunities for extending and enhancing education. The use of social media brings also responsibilities for all, and even more so for educators. Maintaining professional boundaries in all forms of communication, technology-related or not, is vital to maintaining the public trust and appropriate professional relationships."

Present at the event was Karl Hopwood, an independent eSafety expert, member of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, and part of the advisory board for the UK Safer Internet Centre. With vast experience in the sector, Karl has worked for key players in the UK and abroad, including the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and the British Educational and Communications Technology Agency, as well as several local authorities within the UK and the European Commission. As an ex primary head teacher who continues to work closely with children, young people, parents and teachers, Karl shared his thoughts, experiences and valuable tips with the educational stakeholders present. He insisted on the need for each school to have clear policies and guidelines on the use of electronic communications and social media tools, so that all educators may behave online in a way which does not call into question their position as professionals.

Find out more information about the work of the Maltese Safer Internet Centre (SIC) generally, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services on the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) portal, or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.

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