Love it, hate it, use it, or don’t use it, in whatever form it takes, social media isn’t going away in the foreseeable future.
Arguments pro and con are as abundant as there are social media outlets: it provides avenues for networking, it promotes isolation, it is a conduit for information sharing, it’s a conduit for misinformation. The list goes on.
On a scale of low risk to a devastating hit to your school’s reputation, the use of social media may seem trifling and a simple school policy would suffice. However, that isn’t the case. A policy governing the use of social media in schools should be thoughtful, detailed and well publicized.
The misuse of social media could negatively impact a school’s reputation and the ways it can happen are as numerous as there are users. It is well known that teens don’t always fully understand the consequences of their actions. When I was young, my reckless actions usually took place on a baseball field somewhere, resulting in a trip to the emergency room for stitches or x-rays. The impact was isolated. With the abuse of social media however, a thoughtless post or a provocative photo could have a widespread negative impact to another individual, a group of people, or an institution.
If your school doesn’t have a social media policy, create one. If there is a policy in place, take a closer look to ensure it covers as much as possible to help protect your students, your faculty and your school’s reputation.
Regarding social media policies, some things to consider:
- All policies related to the use of social media by the student population should be as comprehensive as possible. This is a complicated risk; there must be some thought behind developing a policy, or bolstering an existing policy. Consult with students, parents, (all stakeholders) to help develop strong policies. It may also be advisable to speak to your school’s attorney for guidance.
- If your school has an immersion, or experiential learning program, ensure a social media policy specifically addresses how students can and cannot take advantage of social media. This should also cover all school-sanctioned student trips.
- If your school is using social media in the classroom as part of your curriculum (which can be very useful and productive), ensure risks are properly identified and adequately mitigated.
- Policy language should clearly stipulate consequences for the abuse of social media.
- Social media policies should remain dynamic. They must be disseminated to all stakeholders (e.g., students, parents, faculty, staff). Review and amend these policies often. Avenues for social media become available quickly and school governance must keep up. Reminders, updates and other information regarding social media policies should also be published often to help keep this information in the light of day.
- Social media connection or interaction between students and faculty/employees (outside of approved and closely monitored school use) is never a good idea. It should be clearly stipulated in any policy this is prohibited.