Just when everyone was becoming comfortable with the pit-falls of email and the Internet along came social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to keep schools in a constant state of anxiety. Teachers are rapidly discovering that etherspace is a jungle where common sense is their only protection and not everyone on Facebook is their friend. Anything that happens in the real world can and does happen in the virtual one: vilification, bullying, fraud, identity theft, gambling, exploitation, violence and junk mail. It is important that the education community concentrates on the behaviours rather than where they occur. One of the greatest areas of controversy is the use and abuse of Facebook. There is a wide diversity of opinions on the advisability of teachers maintaining personal Facebook pages. A good rule of thumb for deciding the acceptable tone of an online comment would be whether you would be happy for that comment to be published in the school newsletter. Perhaps the greatest controversy with teachers' use of Facebook is when students are given access as friends. No matter how scrupulous a teacher is he or she may become an innocent victim of hoaxes, allegations and defamation. The way forward is for educators to realise that schools are learning environments for staff and students alike. If social networking sites are becoming a distraction to the teaching and learning or are being used malevolently, then school management has the duty to act in a decisive, constructive and proportionate way. [Author abstract, ed]
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