During class today, I was informed that babies 6 months in the womb already have an online digital identity started. Although this didn’t shock me, as most people love seeing babies and baby bumps, it was still eye-opening. Although these are not necessarily bad pictures, the individual is not given the option of taking on this digital identity their parents, or other people, are creating for them. For example, if a mother posts a video of her 2 year old dancing with some underwear on his head, when that child grows up to be 14 years old, he could be terribly embarrassed of that video.
With this new piece of information, it had made me think about what my digital identity looks like. I would not be too mortified with what came up on the internet; however, I know some friends and stories of their Facebook account causing them to not get a particular job, or even lose their job all together. For example, there is one teacher from Massachusetts who had lost her job in 2010 from posting to her Facebook page that her students were “germbags”, “snobby”, and “arrogant”. One of the interesting things is that it wasn’t even the authority figures in the school who had alerted the superintendant… it was two parents. Apparently, it wasn’t even a tough decision because the superintendant had wrote an email, while on vacation, to the teacher to resign. This alone makes the point that teachers need high security with their social networking accounts, as well as wise judgement when deciding what to post.
Even with the right of freedom of speech, teachers are still always liable for their posts and pictures online. Whether it be a picture of a teacher with a drink in his/her hand, or stating their opinion of their students online, teachers’ freedom of speech is not as free as some would like. Although I’m all for keeping teaching as a professional career, I find some of these stories are a little excessive. Having a picture with a wine glass and beer mug in your hand, while in Europe, does not seem like a reason to lose your job. I understand that sometimes parents will not agree with your teaching philosophy and teaching practices, but it is very unsettling to know I’m being watched all the time, and that I need to worry and debate if I should post a certain comment or picture online- I know I would have found nothing wrong with the wine picture, and would have posted it myself, meaning that one teacher’s fate could have easily been mine.
After all of this digging, it makes me a little more nervous to be entering the teaching field in just a few years. Even though I don’t think I have anything to worry about, someone could find the smallest thing and make a complaint if they didn’t like me. I think as a teacher, you always need to be aware of the image and identity you present to everyone- they may not even be the people physically around you because the internet is available for everyone. You should always evaluate your digital identity and, especially as a teacher, provide no reason to have anyone question your integrity and professional identity.