Bullying was taken to a whole other level last summer with the case of school bus aide Karen Klein, who was verbally assaulted by a group of boys. Not only was she brought down in front of a bus full of kids, but her tormentors videotaped her reaction and posted it online, and it quickly went viral. This phenomenon has its own buzzword: cyberbaiting, defined as students baiting their teachers, filming the embarrassing/upsetting footage, and posting it to social media sites. According to a Norton Online Family Report study from 2011, one in five teachers has either personally experienced cyberbaiting or cyberbullying knows someone who has.
North Carolina is the first state to respond to the issue by creating a law to criminalize the bullying of teachers. Students can face misdemeanor charges, fines and/or probation if convicted of tormenting or intimidating a teacher online. Some argue that the law could infringe on the students’ free speech, but teachers in North Carolina support it, stating that they felt a need for reputation management, both online and in the real world.
The Norton Online Family Report found that although 67 percent of teachers acknowledge that interacting with their students via social media is risky, 34 percent of them continue to do so. Additionally, only 51 percent of teachers said that a social media code of conduct exists at their school, while 80 percent of teachers and 70 percent of parents wish for more online safety instruction in the schools.
What are some best practices for search engine reputation management? Below are some tips on how to appropriately use social media to protect yourself and your students.
1. Secure your private life. It’s okay to have your own private social media pages, like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest. But be sure that your security settings are set at the highest levels. This will allow you to talk and post photos of your personal life without letting nosy students in on the details (and you know they’ll be searching for it).
2. Use social media wisely. Many teachers argue that social media is a great way to connect with students, particularly high school students. Public Twitter or Facebook pages dedicated to your class can help foster relationships and discussions on the course material during off hours. The key here is transparency: ensure that the page is set so that only your students are interacting with each other, while allowing parents and administrators to view and monitor the conversations. With allegations of student-teacher misconduct an issue all over the country, discretion and good judgment by teachers are more important than ever.
3. Don’t gossip. Even if your Facebook page is 100% private, err on the side of caution and refrain from posting about your students’ classroom behavior, inappropriate dress or incomprehensible essays. Comments can be copied and reposted or forwarded and create serious problems to classroom morale.
4. Don’t handle any defamation issues by yourself. If you do find yourself in a situation where you are being bullied or defamed online, don’t attempt to handle it yourself. Involve your school district and union as soon as possible and document every action.
5. Hire an online reputation management company. An online reputation management firm, like Reputation Rhino, can assist you in privatizing your social media accounts and bury negative or embarrassing information about you online.