How One Teacher Gave Her Class a Lesson in Social Media Etiquette

PHOTO: Michele Van Bibber gave her class a lesson in posting to social media. Courtesy Michele Van Bibber
Michele Van Bibber gave her class a lesson in posting to social media.

Michele Van Bibber has been an educator since 2010.

One of the changes she's noticed about her students over the past five years is their habit of over-sharing on social media.

"I think that there is quite a bit of new social media out there and it's changed in the way students, or even the way adults, expose themselves to it," said Van Bibber, a health and physical education teacher at Stewartville High School in Stewartville, Minnesota. "I think there has been a big boom like the explosion of Twitter, posting on Facebook, and looking at each other's pictures on Instagram."

After chatting with her 10th graders about the different ways they present themselves on social accounts, Van Bibber decided to conduct a social media experiment.

"I know kids are exposing such private details on the Web," she told ABC News. "The students might also want to be friends with people and sometimes they don't even know who they are."

To show her students how quickly a photo could be picked up by strangers, Van Bibber had one of the kids snap a shot of her holding a sign asking people to share it.

"I asked them [the students], 'if I post this picture on my personal Facebook page, do you think anyone can see it?'" she said. "One of the students said ‘I didn’t think it would work because she doesn’t have many friends’" she laughed.

Van Bibber posted the photo on her Facebook where she and her students monitored its sharing progress for three days straight.

The photo was eventually picked up by ABC News affiliate KAAL, where it received 47,385 likes, 217,649 comments, and over 351,000 shares.

"The kids were taken aback," Van Bibber said. "I don’t think they realized how fast the picture could get out there."

After the post went viral, Van Bibber went over the results with her classes, stressing the one lesson she wanted to get across -- social media safety.

"I just wanted them to be a little more cautious of who has access to what they post -- what if it got into the wrong hands?" she said. "Also, some decisions that we might not think through now could potentially harm us in future endeavors -- like the chances of getting into a specific college, or getting a job.

"I think this made them look back at who was actually following them, and I do think it had an impact."