Social Media Failure from the Classroom

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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This is a second guest post from two sisters and social media lovers, campaigning to help improve e-safety standards in schools.

“As part of eSafety (Safer Internet Week), in my last blog post, I shared 10 Ways to Protect your School from a Social-Media Crisis, a guest post from Digital Awareness UK, who are an e-safety organisation that works in schools to provide practical and up-to-date social media guidance for students, parents and teachers. In this blog, I also offered my Safer Internet Day assembly resource for schools to download.

In this blog, @DigitalSisters share their experiences of working with schools; particularly case studies which has been shared anonymously.

Social Media Logos eSafety

Image: Seowix


An increasing number of teachers have started experimenting with social media in the classroom and having worked in schools across the UK, we have no shortage of stories from teachers that have been tripped up when using it irresponsibly. It happens now and again to the best of us, so when Ross invited us to reveal some of the wounds we’ve helped to heal on his blog, it felt like a good opportunity to deliver some very important messages.

Social media is everywhere. It’s wonderful. It’s constantly evolving. We’ve yet to visit a school where 99% of children aged 11 – 18 aren’t actively sharing online. And it doesn’t stop/start there – a shocking 5 million Facebook users are under the age of 10. Young people live their lives online and are more creative and connected than ever before. This also makes them increasingly more vulnerable to forms of cyber-bullying, sexting, data breaches and more – common occurrences that sadly aren’t left at the school gates.

So, is your school too clued up to fail? These are real stories from real teachers and we’ve hidden their identities for obvious reasons.

Case Study 1:

Janet Langston, Primary School Teacher

Photo Credit: Matt Hamm via Compfight cc

Janet is a huge fan of Twitter and made the sensible decision to set up two separate Twitter profiles– one for work use (where she talked about trends in creative learning) and one for personal use (where she talked about trends on the latest box set she happened to be watching)! What Janet wasn’t so clued up on was how Twitter translates in the classroom and what the boundaries are. In a bid to keep students engaged and drive conversation beyond school hours, Janet asked year six children to tweet her using the hashtag #Y6LiteracyHomework with any questions or thoughts. Sounds quite innocent, right? Well, with Twitter guidelines stating users need to be 13+ to use the network, Janet and the school found themselves in quite a tricky situation when an angry parent demanded an explanation as to why his child was introduced to the channel. Not only that, but the 11-year-old boy was caught searching for indecent images on Twitter using his newly created profile.


When supervised by a teacher, social media can be a really engaging method of learning. Be mindful that all social networks will have age restriction, outlined in their T&Cs so it’s worth familiarising yourself with these as a first step.


Many schools have their own online platforms such as Firefly, which allow teachers, parents and students to interact with one another safely. To be on the safe side, it may be worth encouraging use of a website you can trust to engage with students online.

Case Study 2:

Robert Brown, Secondary School Teacher

YouTube LogoManaging behaviour during a school assembly can be challenging at the best of times. It doesn’t help when your assembly is being secretly filmed via smart-phone and then gets posted up on YouTube. This was a school where mobile phones were banned during school hours. Good news is that the assembly delivered some very interesting information about Black History Month and didn’t feature Robert doing anything inappropriate. The bad news was the supporting copy that accompanied the video online – ‘Crap teacher can’t control kid in assembly’. The culprit is referring to a moment in the assembly where Robert told off a student for talking. The video was only discovered when a student who had seen the video told another teacher at the school. With the video receiving more than 420 views in three days, the school had a bit of a crisis on his hands. In this instance we were called into the school to deal with the situation – escalated the video to the network and had it taken down. We also ran sessions with the students focused on why it’s important to be a good digital citizen. Unfortunately the pupil couldn’t be identified as the video was posted anonymously, however no further incidents have happened at the school.


Pupils have mobile phones with recording devices. Fact. With that comes the risk of regular daily interactions between staff and pupils being recorded and shared online. We have had very positive outcomes from students that have received training around how to be a good digital citizen. We would also encourage schools to introduce social media policies to students – a non-legal, document outlining best practice behaviour online that they can sign. This helps them to understand the implications. That said, one of the downsides of social media is that your school needs to be prepared to be exposed online, whether that’s a child bad mouthing you, posting a video or image. Make sure that your school has a crisis plan.


Get a social media policy in place for both staff and students to ensure everyone understands what is acceptable behaviour.

Case Study 3:

Mark Hutchinson, Secondary School Teacher

facebook logoMark’s situation is more common than you might think. He had been teaching for around 3 years. One of the most seemingly social media savvy teachers we have come across – actively engaging across several online networks, driving conversation in the classroom with his students around their online activities, familiar with the latest social media slang and popular content. However, his enthusiasm for sharing online was on tap, and there for everyone to see. During a school camping trip Mark was photographed with several kids in his class. He decided to share the photograph on Facebook for all to see, breaching their privacy and exposing them to “friends” who ‘liked’ whilst trawling through endless status updates. A friend of Marks commented on the picture – “Is that little Ben on the left? Is he still a pain in the arse, cheeky bugger!” Mark responded with “not my pain anymore, he’s moved classes. And I had nothing to do with it …lol”. It didn’t take long for the post to be picked up by another teacher who reported her concerns to senior staff who was forced to take action.


When it comes to social media, work and personal life is best kept separate. And with that in mind you should never post anything online that you’re not comfortable with everyone seeing, even if you have locked or private profile. Images, videos and words that feature your school’s students and get shared online are considered highly sensitive data. It’s never acceptable or appropriate to post content about a pupil on social media.


If you want to whine about your students or discuss any personal issues relating to a student, don’t. If you have to, save it for the staff room because it doesn’t belong online!”


BETT Show 2015
@TeacherToolkit with @DigitalSisters at BETT15

Digital Awareness UK use leading developers, YouTube stars, hackers and social media specialists to inspire students to enjoy using social media safely. If you’d like to work with @DigitalSisters to help bolster your existing e-safety efforts, get in touch with Emma and Charlotte at or tweet @DigitalSisters

Read Part 1: 10 Ways to Protect your School from a Social-Media Crisis

@DigitalSisters Digital Awareness eSafety


5 thoughts on “Social Media Failure from the Classroom

  1. Very refreshing point of view and helpful for all the elements of educational process! I was really surprised by the information about 5 million of Facebook users are under the age of ten. That is obvious and I am totally determined that not all the social media should be available to pupils.

  2. Thanks for this! I very definitely keep my Twitter account and my FaceBook account separate. My Twitter is public and often links to the school one. This was a considered decision. My FaceBook is private and is only available to friends and family. A good reminder to think carefully about privacy on the net.

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