I’m a Facebook user AND a teacher. Here’s how I locked down my profile so that I can have a social life and not worry that the world is watching over my shoulder. A word of warning that should already be obvious: even with the privacy guards in place, I still wouldn’t recommend posting drunken pirate pictures of yourself.

Modify Your Profile

I made a friend list for my students, cleverly titled “Students”. Make friend lists under the Friends tab at the top of every page (a snapshot is below).

Facebook Friend Lists is under the friends section.
Facebook Friend Lists is under the friends section.

Then I set exceptions for my Students list.

Set exceptions under the privacy section.
Set exceptions under the privacy section.

Facebook allows you to set these exceptions (after the colon is the setting I chose):

  • Profile: My Networks and Friends (because I want anyone who’s my friend to get to my profile page)
  • Basic Info: My Networks and Friends. Some might want to block this because it includes political and religious views, birthday, and relationship status (I chose to leave it open but will keep in mind that my students can see this information — for the record, I have Facebook NOT display my birth year).
  • Personal Info: My Networks and Friends. Again, you may want to block this. It includes interests and activities and about me (same as above, I prefer to leave this open but write it so it’s student-safe).
  • Status Updates: My Networks and Friends except Students (because I tend to provide personal happenings, I prefer to prevent my students from seeing what I’m doing all weekend)
  • Photos Tagged of You: My Networks and Friends except Students. A more open stance is to control photos at the album level. I don’t know yet what happens if I’m tagged in a friend’s album. (This is huge! I wouldn’t invite students to a party, so I’m sure as heck not going to let them see the photos.)
  • Videos Tagged of You: My Networks and Friends except Students (same deal as photos)
  • Friends: My Networks and Friends (I’m currently ok with my students seeing who my friends are. This may change in the future.)
  • Wall: My Networks and Friends except Students (unless you want to approve every post to your wall, don’t let your students see — because you can’t be certain what someone else will write about you)
  • Education Info: My Networks and Friends
  • Work Info: My Networks and Friends

Finally, I set exceptions for apps. Because it’s the apps that are often inappropriate for students, this may be the most important step. No need for my students to see if a friend sends me a drink or if one of my bumper stickers is a bit racy.

apps also need exceptions.
Don't forget: apps also need exceptions.

Facebook Can Get You Into Trouble

Teachers should be incredibly wary about having profiles on social networking sites. And even more wary about befriending students. That’s potentially a glimpse into your personal life you don’t need to share. At best sharing the wrong info is unprofessional.

Keeping it professional is the challenge and I’m hardly the only teacher trying to figure out the murky waters of social networking as a professional. Ms. Ward of “I am a teacher et cetera” wrote of keeping the personal social networking separate from the professional social networking in her post “Wasting Time”. She writes:

However, this is also where my professional persona started to overlap with my life outside of school. Technology has a way of bridging gaps in unexpected ways. I originally started my Facebook account so that I could connect with students…This worked well, until my friends outside of school also found me on Facebook. Suddenly, I found myself having to explain my teaching persona to my non-teaching friends.

Ms. Ward’s solution was to un-friend her students so she could separate professional from personal. I think I’ve found a less drastic measure. Exploring and implementing the privacy controls Facebook provides (before school starts) allows me the best of both worlds.