Dating App Debacle

During the summer of 2017, the Digital Tattoo project team is collaborating with students and others on the development of case study scenarios for use in seminars in teacher education programs.

Workshop participants have the opportunity to:

  • build their confidence for decision-making about posting and sharing content online.
  • practice using guidelines and resources to support decision-making.
  • reflect on and discuss the multiple perspectives at play in each scenario and the implications for themselves as beginning teachers.

Teachers are expected to maintain the public's confidence in the teaching profession, even when communicating through private social media accounts.

Table Discussion

In groups of 3-4:

1. Read the case study and consider your response to the personal reflection question as you read.

2. Discuss each question below with your group, using the resources to support your responses.

3. Take notes on your discussion to share when the large group reconvenes.

While reading the case study, consider your personal response to the following question:

As a teacher candidate, how am I protected when a misunderstanding occurs online?

boy texting

Knowing that decisions about social media use can be difficult for teachers, new teacher candidate Issam has taken action with regards to his social media accounts in an attempt to avoid crossing any professional boundaries during his practicum. He keeps his Tiktok and Instagram accounts set to private and he has started using pseudonyms, as he knows that privacy settings on social media platforms can change without his knowledge. He has also explained to students who have asked to follow or “friend” him on social media that he will not do so, as he believes that communication between a teacher and student through personal social media accounts would not be appropriate.

Prior to becoming a teacher candidate, Issam created an account on the dating app Grindr. Given how busy he is, he finds it difficult to meet people in other ways and he decides to continue using the app during his practicum. He has read through his school district’s official social media policy to find out if his continued using of the dating app would be a problem. Because the policy does not prohibit, or even specifically mention dating apps, Issam felt confident that any use of the app would be unlikely to interfere with his role as a teacher. After all, all users of the app must be at least 18, and his app preferences are set to show him only other users who are at least 20 years old. As an extra precaution, his profile does not include his last name or any mention of the fact that he is a teacher candidate, let alone the school at which he is teaching during his practicum. The profile does include photos that other users of the app can access, but he does not consider any of the photos he has posted to be inappropriate.

A few weeks into his practicum, during which he is teaching high school students in grades nine and ten, he receives a message on the dating app, saying "Hey, Mr. A ;)." He immediately recognizes the other user as one of his students. Initially shocked that a student that age could be using the app to contact him, Issam realizes that the student had likely used a fake age to create a profile, making it possible for him to be using the app as well. Issam ignores the message and, even though he would like to continue using the app, he decides to delete his profile so that this cannot happen with any other students.

Although Issam considers discussing the situation with his school advisor, he ultimately feels that he has done everything he can to make the best of what happened, and he decides not to mention it to anyone at the school. The next day, a group of his students are crowded around some of their lockers between classes when Issam hears one of them ask across the hallway, “Any luck on Grindr, Mr. Ansari?” He turns around to see the student who had sent him the message holding up a cell phone to show a screenshot of one of Issam's photos. Issam is shocked that the student saved and shared his picture and is embarrassed to see that his school advisor has seen the whole exchange. Concerned about the situation, his school advisor suggests that she and Issam meet with his faculty advisor and the school administrator to discuss what happened. Issam has been making professional connections with the teachers and administrators at this school and he is now worried that this situation could make them view him differently. He is especially concerned that, as a teacher candidate, school administrators may be less likely to support him than they would be if he were a certified teacher. On the other hand, he believes that his use of the app has been appropriate and he feels that he should be able to continue using dating apps in the future.

1. Is Issam's use of a dating app a violation of either social media policies or the standards for BC educators?

Consider these resources as you answer:

2. How should Issam approach this situation with students and school administrators? How much support should he expect from administration given that he is a teacher candidate? Would the reaction of administrators change depending on the type of school (e.g. public vs Catholic vs private school) or the location of the school (e.g. urban vs rural school) in which Issam is teaching? Are there any larger social issues that may impact an administrator's handling of this situation?

Consider these resources as you answer:

3. How would you handle the use of dating apps as a teacher? What steps would you take to manage risks and avoid any negative repercussions?

Consider these resources as you answer:

4. How does the potential for student-teacher communication impact your social media decisions? How would you handle situations in which students try to contact, follow, or “friend” you online? Professionally speaking, which social media platforms could teachers use to communicate with students appropriately and effectively?

Consider these resources as you answer:

Some rights reserved Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document according to the terms in Creative Commons License, Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0. The full text of this license may be found here: CC by-sa 4.0 Attribution-Share-a-like

When re-using this resource, please attribute as follows: developed by the University of British Columbia: Digital Tattoo – Case Studies Project Team.

What questions did this case study raise for you from your perspective? Please share in the comment box below.


Post image: Man on cell phone, licensed CC0 1.0 on

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