Teachers should avoid using social media when dealing with students and parents, according to a new draft policy.

Released by the Education Ministry for consultation yesterday, the draft policy lays out the ground rules for teachers and social media use.

According to the document, educators should not exchange private text, phone numbers, personal e-mail addresses or photos of a personal nature with students and parents.

Read: Code of ethics warns teachers about Facebook

Back in September the Malta Union of Teachers had said educators were constantly having to deal with issues unrelated to teaching as a result of the ever-growing influence of social media in the classroom.

The MUT’s comments had come just after a Muslim classroom assistant was wrongly blamed on social media for the removal of a crucifix in a summer school in Gżira.

The case was first flagged by a parent on social media, where vitriolic comments and demands for an official explanation for the ‘unacceptable’ act soon spread on Facebook with the Foundation for Educational Services having to intervene to clarify the matter.

The case was later described as a textbook example of how social media can influence the classroom.

According to the new draft policy, educators are to conduct themselves “in a manner that is becoming to the profession at all times and in all contexts”.

Misuse of communication technologies by educators may raise questions about their professional conduct and moral character, the document warns.

Teachers, it reads, should decline learner-initiated friend requests and should not instigate such requests themselves.

They should also use discretion when dealing with friend requests from parents and carers.

It is acceptable, the document says, to decline these invitations and remind parents and cares of more formal channels through which they can discuss their child’s education.

Educators should also manage the privacy settings and keep them under review. These were particularly important when it came to photos.

Teachers should also be aware of who may have access to what they post and that online conversations may not be private.

And, they should refrain from discussing students, colleagues, parents or carers online at any time.

Back in 2012 a revised version of the code of ethic had said teachers should avoid “inappropriate communication” with students through social media such as Facebook.