A local newspaper published an article about teachers who posted controversial content on their Facebook profiles. The Sun Sentinel actually posted the teachers' full names, schools and grade levels, which I feel is out of line. Several of the teachers will probably be terminated. It seems that some of the "questionable content" was taken out of context or exaggerated. One teacher had a picture of his girlfriend in a "skimpy outfit," but maybe they were at the beach or a costume party. Who is to say how skimpy the outfit is anyway? There's no context. The lesson I took away from this article is that teachers have to be very careful online. We shouldn't assume that anything we post online is private; note that several of the teachers commented that they believed their photos were private. The safest thing to do is to not use social networking sites, but many people rely on these sites to keep in touch with family and friends. For those of us who have social networking profiles, here are some tips for using those sites that I've compiled myself: - Don't use your work email address to register at a social networking site. Members and often non-members can search for you using your email address at most sites, and it's probably against district policy to receive emails from those sites at work. - Become familiar with the site's privacy settings by reading the FAQ's and contacting customer support if you have concerns. - In MySpace, set your profile to "private." In Facebook, click on "privacy," go through the four categories of privacy settings, and set everything to either "only friends" or "only me." - In Facebook, you can set pictures that others have tagged of you to "friends only." However, you can't prevent other people from posting pictures of you and not tagging them with your name. Keep an eye out for pictures that your friends have posted, and ask them to either make private or take down images that you feel aren't appropriate. - Don't enter your school or your district anywhere in your profile. When you post something on your profile, you're really posting key words and search terms so that other users can find you based on that information. If you post "X District Schools" under "work" in Facebook, you become a member of the X District Schools network. Other users can find you when they search for "X District Schools." In Myspace, if you enter "X District Schools" anywhere on your profile, "X District Schools" becomes a clickable search term. To be safe, omit that information entirely. - Don't add outside applications such as quizzes to your profile. Often those quizzes and tests (like "What Kind of Kisser are You?" and so forth) have different privacy settings, and they might broadcast your quiz results and personal information on another website. - Most importantly, don't post information or pictures that you wouldn't want your students or their parents to find. There are lots of ways to get around privacy settings. Students could even pose as adults an add you as a friend on these sites, gaining access to all of your photos and personal thoughts. - Finally, keep in mind sites like Technorati that will show you which sites refer to other sites. For example, if you keep a blog for your class and link to it from your personal blog, students can go to Technorati.com, type in the url for the class blog, and see a list of websites that link to it. Your personal blog will probably be among those websites if you link to the class blog. I hope this is helpful!