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Teachers, Privacy, and the Ethical Use of Digital Media

In: Computers and Technology

Submitted By jlockl
Words 2849
Pages 12
Teachers, Privacy and the Ethical use of Digital Media

OUTLINE
Digital Media and Teachers - Ethical implications for teachers and their personal use of social media - Is it ethical for teachers and students to be friends on social media sites?
Expected Privacy While Using Digital Media - Privacy Breaches - Ethical use of personal identifiable information
Conclusion
References

Digital media has greatly enhance the way that we share things in both our personal and business lives. It has enabled us to share things with our communities so fast and so easily that we to forget about the ramifications that could come of this technology if we don’t fully understand its power. As more and more people and organizations turn to digital media the implications of our actions begin to present themselves.
There are various ethical concerns that need to be addressed as we consume digital media in our everyday lives. These challenges are widespread and can be applied to virtually every corner and medium of the internet. In this research paper we will address just a few areas of concern listed below:
• Should teachers be allowed to communicate with students via social media?
• Should a teachers personal posts affect their professional life?
• What amount of privacy should we expect and who is responsible to maintain that privacy?
• Just because you can say it does it mean you should?
These questions touch on the huge subject of ethical behavior as it relates to our consumption of digital media. Sure there are many more areas that can be addressed but, we will attempt to understand the ethical environment that these questions present and attempt to determine if these areas can give an overall understanding of how to proceed in an ethical manner.
We can define ethics as the “capacity for thinking in abstract terms about the implications of a given course of action for one’s self, group, profession, community, nation, and world” (C. James, 2009). In doing so we are saying that we should be asking ourselves a moral question before we proceed to post to social media, download a torrent, and even alter a photo while using digital media. Organizations thrive on making their products and service easier for consumers to obtain. In doing so we expose our personal information such as bank accounts and identities under the presumption that those we do business with are going to protect it both from outside sources and inside threats.
If we look to the journalistic view on ethics we can sum them up in two terms: errors of commission and errors of omission. Errors of commission are things journalists and media professionals or those using social media might do, but should not, such as accepting gifts from sources. (Pavlik,2012) Errors of omission are things journalists and other media professionals should do, but fail to do, like siting a source. (Pavlik, 2012). Because these are well defined everyone can come to the conclusion that it is not ethical if a journalist failed to site a source or took a bribe for a favourable story. We also can agree that if a journalist altered a photo to change the view that it originally represented that this too would be unethical. As we begin to use digital media more and more and it becomes increasingly easy to manipulate we expose more and more situations that need to have ethical standards established. We need to relate our digital media use to what we would do when we are not online. Only then will we understand that there are both things we should do and things we shouldn’t do when online.
For teachers, the ethical question of whether or not it is appropriate to “friend” a student on a social media network must be answered. Prior to social media, the only contact with students would be confined to a school event of some sort. Whether it be the actual school day or an after school activity, rarely did students and teachers interact outside of this environment. Now with the advent of Web 2.0 our social contact is changing and becoming more and more public. This poses an issue for teachers as their once before private lives are now becoming known. Social media has a place in our personal and professional lives. If we expose the two are we creating an ethical conundrum? Can certain professions eliminate the personal and professional separation?
Teachers are role models and often seen as representing the school. Just as in the military when you put the uniform on everyone thinks of you as the “military” and not an individual. If you did something that was unethical you would subject your service to the act not just yourself. Same for a teacher. If a teacher were to do something considered unethical the school would have to answer to it. Does this give the school the right to say you cannot have a different set of ethics in your personal profile that you do in your professional one? Many schools are dealing with this very issue as social media is becoming more and more prevalent.
Trolling News Makers
News organizations are trolling social media sites looking for embarrassing postings made by teachers. (M. Simpson, 2010) There are plenty of stories out there that fit this category. For whatever reason News organizations are taking the time to do this is for the mere ratings and probably to expose those “mentors” of our youth. It’s not as if this type of behaviour never took place before by teachers it is just never been as public as it is with social media. Plenty of stories have been written that have landed teachers in hot water for what they posted on social media sites. Here are a few examples:
• The Charlotte Observer reported that an afterschool staffer from Charlotte was fired for his Facebook comment that he likes “chillin’ wit my xxxxx” and a “suggestive exchange” with a female friend. Two probationary teachers faced termination for their Facebook musings that “I’m feeling pissed because I hate my students,” and I’m “teaching in the most ghetto school in Charlotte.” (M. Simpson, 2010)
• The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch ran an exposé entitled, “Teachers’ Saucy Web Profiles Risk Jobs.” One 25-year-old female bragged on her MySpace site about being “sexy” and “an aggressive freak in bed.” Another confessed that she recently got drunk, took drugs, went skinny-dipping, and got married. (M. Simpson, 2010)
• The Washington Post published a front page “investigative” piece entitled “When Young Teachers Go Wild on the Web,” quoting one DC teacher’s Facebook page: “Teaching in the DC Public Schools—Lesson #1: Don’t smoke crack while pregnant.” A special ed teacher wrote on her page to a student, “You’re a retard, but I love you,” and posted a photo of herself “sleeping” with a bottle of tequila. (M. Simpson, 2010)
• A San Antonio newspaper reported that college student “Mahka” posted pictures of herself in various stages of drunkenness with the catchy caption, “Can U say wasted?” She also wrote: “Drinking and partying is my life. I’m gonna be a high school English teacher one day.” (M. Simpson, 2010)
These teachers failed to understand that it is not ethical to post your views on your job for everyone to see. They may have thought that it was their first amendment right to say what they want but when you are in a profession that requires you to be a role model you have limited rights. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Schools around the country are trying to figure out how to deal with the ethical questions that social media poses. Some schools districts have established policies and some have none. In New Jersey there is a bill currently at the governor’s office that would make it a requirement to have a policy. The website www.NJ.com posted the story with a poll for readers to show their support for or against it. Just under half of the 671 votes at the time of this paper thought there shouldn’t be communication between teacher and student.
Thank you for voting!
No, any communication should be done in the classroom or the old-fashioned way 48.88% (328 votes) It depends. In some situations, it may be helpful, but in others cases it could end up being inappropriate 33.53% (225 votes) Yes, it's a way for teachers to keep students informed on school-related information 17.59% (118 votes)
(J, Beym, 2014)
Teachers and Students….Social Media Friends?
Teachers have two roles, that of a professional representative of the school and that of a private citizen. We have already seen some examples of teachers who share their thoughts about their students or their fellow teachers and how it under minds their purpose to the point they have to be fired. There are several ethical questions that can be discussed if students and teachers are social media friends. From a legal standpoint what happens if a teacher sees a post about an illegal activity of one of her students? Is the teacher responsible to take action? Are they liable too? If they don’t, will they be held accountable because they didn’t come forward? All of these of course have answers based on the exact situation. (M. Hancock, 2011)
The argument that social media, email, and texting are what students are using so it is where teachers need to go to interact with them is ill informed. The problem with these communications is they are not visible to the minor’s parent. If they were to include the parent then they would be less unethical. It would be like meeting with the student at a coffee shop outside of the school to talk without the parent knowing the meeting was taking place.
Since being friends with students on social media is not recommended or even allowed in some districts because of the ethical questions in proposes not to mention you would expose you students to your personal life there is a way for learning to take place in the environment that students use. Facebook has a group function that can allow people to meet just in the group. Students can join the group without having to be the teachers “friend”. Everyone in the group sees only the post made to that group. Students could then collaborate in a less formal environment they are familiar with. Teachers can then use the group to facilitate learning how to be a better digital citizen and guide discussions related to digital media. (M. Kharbach, no date) Whether or not continuing the teacher student relationship in this manner is beneficial is up to the members of the group. It does however provide those who wish to use social media in addition to class room teaching an opportunity to do so without exposing their personal lives with their students.
As schools race to make policy defining what is appropriate digital media use and with whom, there are sure to be many more stories of inappropriate contact between students and teachers. Teachers will also have to police themselves as they try to keep their private life private. They should be instructed from the beginning that even though their social media pages are for their private use their postings are public and represent the school. They can simply ask themselves when sharing with a social media sites if it would be appropriate to share with their mother.

Privacy Expected
Digital communications has greatly enhanced the way we do business in this age. We can purchase items online, read newspapers online, text friends and coworkers and share photos and videos online. With this we expect that only our intended audience be privy to the content. There is an expectation of privacy in our digital worlds. We expect organizations to keep our information private and not share it with others. These organization’s information gatherers are left with the ethical dilemma of what personal information is to be collected. As we seen with our own government, some information is collected without the citizen’s knowledge.
Recent exposure of data collection by a government contractor has sparked a debate on what is ethical when it comes to privacy and national security. A contractor stole government secrets utilizing his credentials and those of his coworkers to expose that the government was collecting Americans personal phone calls and texts in bulk. This brings up three questions:
• Was it ethical for the government to collect the communications of its citizens without their knowledge
• Was it ethical for the contractor to reveal this?
• Was it ethical of the news media to report it?
There may be different ways to answer all of these questions but it certainly walks the line of ethics no matter how you answer them. The government has the role of protecting its citizens. They may have weighed the benefits of collecting the data with the violation of privacy its citizens felt. The contractor certainly had to answer that question himself. The news media stands to gain from this story and many others that expose the failures of organizations to protect our privacy.
In 2013 there where plenty of violations of our privacy by big organizations not including the government.
• Hackers stole almost 2 million usernames and passwords from Facebook, Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Twitter and 93,000 other websites. This was a result of malware installed on user computers that swiped log-in credentials for thousands of sites for over a month. (L. Williams, 2013)
• Target had nearly 40 million shoppers fall victim to a data breach that saw their bank account information stolen.
• Software maker Adobe reported that 3 million customers’ credit card information was stolen. Also, a source code leak exposed almost 40 million user emails and passwords. (L. Williams, 2013)
With our personal information stored in so many different places companies have an ethical duty to protect them. For the most part they do but there is always the cyber thief who exposes company’s privacy shortcomings.
Internet users must understand that they are their first line of defense when it comes to online privacy. We must be fully aware of the information we are putting in the hand s of others. Our expected privacy is that nothing will ever be exposed to someone who is going to misuse it. The problem is internet uses expose their information all the time. We do things on our smart phones that we wouldn’t do on our computers. (Canadian Press, 2013)
As we download apps we are asked to agree to permissions. If you don’t agree you cannot use the app. So we agree and forget. This can allow malware to be loaded to you phone and hackers can steal you data or even activate your camera. This is more than likely adding to our privacy issues with the internet. The data we expect organizations to keep secret is being exposed by the user.
Conclusion
Digital media is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. As the internet becomes more popular for things like online shopping, banking, social media and news we run the risk of exposing ourselves and our privacy. Social media use by teachers poses many ethical questions. States are just now starting to pass policies on social media that answer the ethical questions that arise when teachers and students engage online. The once private lives we had are now public thanks to social media. Teachers have seen how their personal life can affect their professional life with a simple post about their weekend or their boss. Ethical questions are posed when students and teacher engage in social media together.
Organizations use digital media technologies to make it easier to provide services to their customers. They must be ethical in this pursuit as more personal information is put at risk to benefit the organization and the user. The user also must be aware that the organization does not take all the risk. Protecting our personal information is becoming harder to do as we become more complacent online when it comes to our smartphones.
With more people using digital media to make things easier or to connect with their communities more and more ethical boundaries will need to be established. Before the popularity of social media our teachers would only be able to connect with students at school or at a school event. Now teachers are beginning to use social media because that’s where the students hangout online. For all the benefits this may provide it exposes the teacher and the school to situations that they wouldn’t normally find themselves in. With the openness of social media news organizations are beginning to troll these sites for stories that expose unethical behavior of those in a role model profession.
Privacy breaches and social media have increased the need to establish what the ethical boundaries are. This dilemma of ease of use verses ethical boundaries will surely shape the online experience as it becomes increasingly popular.

References:
Canadain Press. "The Vancouver Sun." www.vancouversun.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Mar. 2014.…...

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