Ontario teachers should not be Facebook friends with students or follow them on Twitter, says a report put out by a top regulatory body.

The recommendation comes in an advisory report released Monday by the Ontario College of Teachers outlining social media guidelines to its 230,000 members.

"We're not suggesting [teachers] shouldn't use Facebook, but we are suggesting that the private profile that students have and exchanges between teacher and students are not appropriate," said Michael Salvatori, registrar and CEO of the college.

The report specifically advises teachers not to accept or initiate Facebook friend requests with students and advises them against following students on Twitter.

Salvatori said electronic communication and social media can offer exciting teaching experiences but there are serious risks of misunderstandings or abuse.

Salvatori said the college is advising teachers to instead use official school board Facebook pages to interact with students as opposed to personal pages. He also suggests teachers use their board emails to correspond with students, and to inform parents if they plan on using social media to connect with students.

The report is just the third advisory the college has issued. It comes as teachers grapple with how to interact and educate students online, said Salvatori.

"The frontiers for learning are being extended through digital communication and we want teachers to engage in that," he said. "But we want them to be able to do it while at the same time maintaining that same professional identity and reputation they do in face-to-face interactions."

Some of the report's other recommendations:

  • Teachers shouldn't exchange private texts, phone numbers or personal photos with students.
  • Teachers should regularly monitor privacy settings on social media accounts.
  • Teachers should avoid online criticisms of students, colleagues or employers.