How To Create A Social Media Policy For Your School
Many schools haven’t given much thought to creating a social media policy, but it is crucial to have one in this day and age. Not only are your students constantly on social media, but their parents, and even your staff, use it daily. An estimated 4.74 billion people are using at least one social media platform across the world.
The use of social media in a school setting can also come with certain risks and challenges, including cyberbullying, inappropriate content, and violations of student privacy. To address these concerns, schools need to establish a comprehensive social media policy that outlines acceptable use, establishes guidelines for appropriate behavior, and provides consequences for violations.
Creating a policy that outlines how your school will approach social media, the expectations of your staff and students, and the guidelines for use will help you to ensure a safe and positive online environment for everyone in the school community, while also protecting your school and your school’s brand.
Why Do Schools Need A Social Media Policy?
Because students are online at school, at home, and everywhere in between, your school needs to create policies addressing what is (and isn’t) acceptable for students to post about your school. A social media policy provides clear guidelines for appropriate behavior on social media platforms, both during and outside of school hours.
It also helps ensure that school-related content posted online is accurate, appropriate, and respectful. A social media policy can protect students and staff members from online harassment and inappropriate interactions. Overall, a social media policy is an important tool for promoting a safe and positive school environment in the digital age.
Creating Your School’s Social Media Policy
Now that you know why your school or school district needs a social media policy, how do you go about creating one? Follow our simple steps below and you will have a well-crafted policy in no time!
1. Define Your School’s Approach To Social Media Use
The first step in creating your school’s social media policy is to determine and define your school’s approach to social media as a whole. Here are some questions to ask when creating your approach:
- What social media platforms will you use (and regularly post and engage on?)?
- On what platforms will the official school social media accounts be located, and who will be responsible for creating content and monitoring the pages?
- What will you post about and what content will you share?
- Will you plan to engage with the community, your staff, or students via social media?
Determining the answers to these questions will help you find a holistic view of your school’s social media presence.
2. Determine How You Will Address Comments and Reviews
Depending on the social media platforms you choose to engage on, comments and reviews may come in from time to time. Assign teammates that you trust the responsibility of responding to comments, fielding questions, and dealing with the potential naysayer or negative review.
Timeliness can be important here, especially in the instance of someone asking a question, or quickly addressing something negative before it gets out hand. A statement or two describing how you will respond to these comments, the appropriate approval channels, and the timeframe in which these items will be addressed can be included here.
There’s a good chance that the parents of your students sign a photo release or waiver at the beginning of each year, or when they enroll in your school. This waiver should also include information about social media, allowing the parents to opt-in (or opt-out) of social media platform use and anything they are uncomfortable with.
Being clear and up front with your parents about how you plan to use the images or information about their students is important in building trust and transparency within your community.
Establishing Your School’s Social Media Guidelines
As social media usage continues to grow, educators and school administrators must develop guidelines to make sure teachers and students use these platforms safely, responsibly, and appropriately. With the rise of cyberbullying, online harassment, and other forms of online misconduct, it's crucial to establish clear guidelines for social media use in schools to protect students and teachers alike.
Keep reading for tips for creating effective guidelines that promote positive online behavior for all members of your school’s community.
1. Set Expectations for Personal Use of Social Media
Setting social media expectations for personal use can be an important step towards using social media in a way that is beneficial and enjoyable for your community.
2. Define the boundaries of your social media policy.
Depending on your school's rules around cell phones, smart watches or other communication devices, you may need to update your communication device policy to reflect or include social media components.
An example would be in a statement or two about the appropriate time to use such a device (between classes, at the end of the day, etc.) and including wording that includes social media activity. “Cell phones and other smart devices are not permitted during the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. This includes such activities as calling, texting, emailing and social media engagement. Students will also refrain from posting social media content or scrolling through social media feeds within this time frame.”
Include the consequences and discipline policy for violation of these expectations in this section as well.
3. Set Expectations for the Educational Use of Social Media
Emphasize the importance of responsible behavior on all social media platforms. Students should understand that their actions on social media can have real-world consequences . They should be reminded to respect others, avoid engaging in cyberbullying, and avoid sharing inappropriate content.
Social media can be a powerful tool for connecting students with one another and with teachers. Encourage students to use social media to share ideas, collaborate on projects, and offer support to their peers.
When using social media in the classroom, it's important to tie its use to specific learning outcomes. Your staff and teachers should regularly check in on student activity, and be prepared to intervene if necessary.
4. Create a Social Media Policy for Teachers and Staff
By defining the conduct that you expect from your staff and teachers on social media platforms, your team can maintain a professional and appropriate presence on social media platforms and avoid any potential issues that could compromise their role as educators or the reputation of your school.
Your policy for teachers and staff should include components speaking to professionalism, privacy, endorsements, relationships, confidentiality and consistency.
“School employees must maintain a professional image when using social media platforms. They should avoid using social media to share inappropriate, offensive or derogatory comments about students, colleagues, parents or the school community.
Teachers and staff should be mindful of their privacy settings on social media platforms and ensure that their personal social media accounts are separate from their professional accounts. Personal social media accounts should not be used to communicate with students or parents.
Teachers and staff should not engage in any online relationships with students that could be perceived as inappropriate, such as befriending students on social media platforms, sharing personal information or photos, or engaging in private messaging.
School employees should not use social media platforms to endorse or promote any commercial products or services, political candidates, or religious organizations.
Teachers and staff will protect the confidentiality of student and school information. They will not post photos or videos of students on non-official school channels, disclose confidential information or discuss any incidents that could potentially identify students.
Teachers must adhere to the school's policies and guidelines regarding social media use. They should communicate clearly and consistently with students, parents, and colleagues, and ensure that their behavior on social media platforms aligns with their professional responsibilities and the core values of the school.”
Clearly defining offenses, consequences and disciplinary action is another key component to your social media policy for teachers.
5. Establish Social Media Guidelines for Students
In addition to the restrictions on using social media during the school day and anything else along those lines, your social media guidelines for students can be similar to those of the staff and teachers. The consequences will likely be different (notifying parents, detention, further disciplinary action, etc.), however, the expected behaviors will likely be similar.
Include messaging that speaks to the core values of your school, discouraging negativity, cyber-bullying and discrimination should also be included in your policy. Encourage the treatment of other students and members of your community with respect, and reinforce positive behavior and the educational opportunities that social media activity provides.
Review Social Media Policy With Legal Team
After defining and writing your school’s social media policy, have a legal professional review it can help identify any loopholes or information that you might have overlooked. In instances where teacher’s unions or other organizations are involved, having a clear, professional, and legal, policy can streamline your operations and interactions between students and school employees.
Modernize Your School With The Help Of SOLVED
As schools continue to modernize and adopt technologies, social media marketing and official account channels are great tools to communicate your values, competitive edge, and connect with your community. If your school is starting to engage in social media communications, important policies like this need to be put in place to protect everyone in your school’s community.
The team at SOLVED helps schools modernize through updated websites, app development, fresh content and clear communications. Our team offers solutions that help drive recruitment, and in turn, funding. Schedule your free consultation to learn more about our services and get started today!