The Guardian recently published a thought-provoking article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/jan/23/teacher-misconduct-cases-facebook
Essentially, the stories are told of a few teachers who have been reprimanded or even dismissed as a result of indiscriminate activity on their Facebook accounts (and other social networks). This article makes for interesting reading and provides a very useful departure point when it comes to establishing a Fair Use policy for Facebook and other social media sites. While social networks offer an unrivalled platform for communicating information and maintaining relationships, the key factor to consider in this kind of relationship is common sense: is this communication wise? Unfortunately, people have very different ideas regarding what constitutes “wise” conversations, and can easily get themselves and others into trouble.
When it comes to social media policies, particularly in schools, here are some very general guidelines that may prove useful:
- By all means use social media to organise and manage events.
- Keep people abreast of dates, activities, and changes to calendars.
- Share achievements and successes, such as winning the inter-schools rugby final.
- Allow free comments but moderate these carefully. Often a well-worded, well-timed reply to a scathing remark does infinitely more good than not allowing the remark in the first place.
- Use social media to market your school more effectively.
- Have a clear, simple Fair Use policy – to protect yourself, your staff and your pupils.
- Create very secure user profiles that can only be viewed by direct friends, to avoid some of the horrible happenings described in the article above.
- Allow teachers or any staff to befriend pupils on social networks.
- Allow private conversations between pupils and teachers on social networks. (Rather make the appropriate communication channels very clear and encourage the use of these).
- Allow photographs to be posted without the permission of those appearing in them.
- Post any photographs of yourself (or colleagues or pupils) in compromising positions of any kind. It might seem light-hearted and entertaining, but these kinds of things can be career enders.
- Ban social media.
The simple fact is that social media is here to stay. This is the way people communicate now, and whether we like it or not, restricting access completely will ultimately do more harm than good. Even so, we can exercise discretion and wisdom, maximising the potential benefits while minimising or, better yet, eliminating the potential pitfalls.
This “Do’s and Don’t’s” list is far from exhaustive. It is useful to do the research and create a fair use policy that will work in your particular scenario. Should you need any assistance, contact us to start the process of establishing your school’s policy.