Lesson 1: Facebook or MySpace, those popular social networking Web sites that let you set up online profiles of yourself, are not private UNLESS you make them private.
Lesson 2: People will judge you by what you post on MySpace or Facebook, and most often negatively.
Lesson 3: Many employers are hiring and even firing based on what they find on these sites.
Five Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teachers are learning these lessons this week. One teacher faces firing for posting derogatory comments about students on Facebook. Four others have been disciplined for posts involving poor judgment and bad taste.
Add stupidity to the list of offenses, too.
These adults deserve what they get. They should know better. Their actions show outrageous recklessness and immaturity – disappointing and dangerous traits for those with influence over young children. As CMS spokeswoman Nora Carr noted: “When you're in a professional position, especially one where you're interacting with children and parents, you need to be above reproach,” she said.
This matter is not about free speech. People have a right to think, say and do unpleasant and offensive things. But they don't get immunity from the consequences of their actions. There are certain expectations the public has of teachers, and of other professionals such as police officers, that this behavior does not meet.
These teachers didn't even opt to keep their behavior private. Instead, they chose to identify their employer and didn't establish online privacy settings that restrict their pages from being viewed by people they don't invite to view them. Carr said: “I think they just didn't think these things through.”
Really? We bet they're doing a lot of thinking now. And so should other adults.
A recent survey showed that a growing number of employers use social networking sites for recruiting and assessing job performance. Another study showed one in 10 admissions officers at U.S. colleges looks at an applicant's profile pages on Facebook or MySpace when evaluating the student for admission. About 38 percent said the impression left was negative.
These teachers are learning a lesson about responsible and appropriate behavior. It's a lesson we'd think adults in their position would already have learned.
Lesson 4, for others with Facebook pages: Learn from these teachers' mistakes.