I got pretty excited this week when I surpassed 100 followers for my @kmanzo account on Twitter, and then again when the numbers started to ratchet up. But then my enthusiasm turned to wariness when a Twitter user named Stalker started following me. I chided myself for the skepticism when I realized Craig Stalker is a legitimate member with seemingly valid intentions. Even though he’s not an educator, I found many of his posts informative, so I followed him back.
It was only when I started getting a swift stream of female followers with cute user IDs—each including their first names and a year—that I realized not all of the millions of Twitter users are tweeting for good. Sure enough, the girls were pitching some dating service and their profiles included links to provocative photos of themselves.
Why hadn’t I even considered that this medium would be rife with potentially inappropriate contacts? Probably because I’m not in the classroom surrounded by children all day, tuned in to all the warnings about Internet safety. I began to wonder how educators are dealing with this problem in reading and posting to Twitter from their school accounts. Are teachers’ computers screened for questionable Web content, and how do you get around the filtering tools when you have your students use Twitter and other social networking sites?
When I realized what was happening I just started automatically blocking followers with similar code names. Does this simple solution work in a school setting?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.