The Pitfalls of Social Media in Education

At the start of the school year, I had a good idea on how to open up the lines of communication between home and school.

My idea?

To use the social media sites that people already use on a regular basis.

As such, I entered into the world of Facebook.

Three months into the school year, I reported on my progress and was happy to see that it was working.

When I post something on Facebook, it gets read and quite often discussed. I regularly have parents of my students “liking” posts. It’s a great communication tool and I was happy to see it working so well.

Last week, something happened to derail the entire communication tool.

It started out simply enough. One student commented on a post and described something as “gay.”

I pointed out how that was inappropriate and not welcomed at all. This is what the student immediately responded with.

So I wrote back.

I thought that I had made point and that would be the end of it.

Of course, some people called him out for suggesting that I was a bully. He then started swearing at them further down in the comment thread, even after agreeing to watch what he posted.

And then it got really messy.

People chimed in who I didn’t even know. A grade six student from another school started ripping into me. He said all sorts of sexually explicit stuff that was really upsetting and definitely not something I wanted on my teaching page whatsoever.

I didn’t know the student who started to cyber-bully me either, which was really frustrating. A few of my students tried to get him to stop. More people I didn’t know started adding to the comment thread to say that kind of language was inappropriate as well.

Some people swore back and forth at each other and it looked like this just wasn’t going to end. I blocked the offensive account so he couldn’t post anything further but the damage had been done.

This happened during my “office hours” as well. It was 8:30 on a school night and students know that they can expect to find me online for half an hour at that time.

First thing in the morning, I told my principal about the whole affair. He suggested that I shut down the Facebook page, which I have since done.

The student who started the trouble with his negative use of the word “gay” and then continued to swear on the page lost computer privileges at school. The other Grade 6 student lost computer privileges at home (his aunt contacted me on Facebook prior to me shutting down the site)

I think this whole thing is just a shame. I lost a good communication tool between school and home because of one incident.

I wanted to use this as a teachable moment. I am sure many of these kids talk like this on a regular basis in the online world of Facebook. They need to know that this sort of thing is not okay.

I started a new teacher website using the school board’s platform. It doesn’t seem as intuitive and it’s a new tool students and parents are going to have to get used to using now. I hope it takes off. I hope it becomes as popular as my Facebook account was, but I have my doubts.

This whole thing was very upsetting.

Has anything like this every happened to you? 

What tools do you use to communicate with parents and students?

2 responses to “The Pitfalls of Social Media in Education”

  1. Hi Chase .. it's a sad life – I'm just sorry this happened, but it's a good example to use at some stage in the future.

    Good luck with the school board's platform … and hope all goes well and it's forgotten about fairly soon ..

    We do need to think before we write or hit enter .. and most definitely speak ..

    Have an easier rest of the week – Hilary

  2. Hi Hilary,

    It is a sad reality that this kind of negative talk is used so frequently online.

    I bet many parents aren't even aware of what their kids are doing and saying on these sites.

    I wasn't phased so much by the comments but I can just imagine this happening to a kid who doesn't have such good coping skills. It could really be damaging.

    I hope kids wake up and think twice before typing a negative comment. And then think a third time before pressing send.

    I should probably do a lesson just on Netiquette.

    Thanks for the comment Hilary!

    Take care!