5 Tips for Creating Social Networking School Guidelines

Social Media Overlap

“Facebook me.”
“Hey, hit me on Plus”

“Can you tweet me?”

“I’m on Linkedin.”

“Must have missed that in my feed…”

“Wow, look at what is trending now!”

Are you social? Today, it is almost more difficult to find someone who is NOT on a social network than someone who is. The choices almost feel endless from the old guard: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, Orkut, Myspace, to the new endeavors like Path. Or even to the “socialization” of services like Flickr, Instagram, Delicious, FourSquare, YouTube, Pinterest, and more. Social media permeates society today¬†and for the most part, our lives and the lives of our students.

The question remains for many educators: Are you social with your students? How about with parents? Looking at social from that perspective places an entire new lens on how people look at (and should look at) social networking. I know a number of educators who do not desire to live anywhere close to their district or school. It is not for lack of interest in being part of the school community as each of these individuals practically lives, eats, and breathes involvement in the school and post-educational activities. It is that they don’t want to be caught running to the local grocery or convenience store less “prepared or primped” than they are when they are at school. Another factor often is that they desire some “off-school or unplugged” time.

From a social networking standpoint, surprisingly for many people, those same “inconvenient” times are also ones that make everyone “human / real people”. Those times, feelings, or experiences are ones that many share as part of social networks. That, “I can’t believe I ran out of gas,” post on Facebook. The, “Look, I just figured out that I went to the store with a stray curler in my hair…” status update. The posting of a picture unwinding with a good book, a bottle of merlot, and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Social networking has expanded our communities and blurred the lines between vocation and avocation. As such, many are even seeing the potential powerful connections that social networks can create with parents and students on the learning process.

With the overall goal of “social networking” being finding and connecting with “THAT” specific individual, many educators are wondering how to handle “friend” or “circle” requests or asking the question, “should I have more than one “social profile”?” At the same time, many school districts are looking for ways to encourage the use of social media while also balancing the security and safety of their staff and students. To accomplish this, ¬†Social Networking / Media policies need to be developed and adopted.

Here are a few suggestions for guidelines:

  1. Work closely between the district administration and the teachers or teacher unions to ensure that a policy is acceptable and not to overarching in its goal of protection vs utilization.
  2. Encourage faculty to create separate “professional” and “personal” social networking accounts and/or even services.
  3. Develop a policy that lays out positive as well as prohibited actions that are clear and concise.
  4. Provide a set of guidelines beyond the policy based on social media best practices.
    • Communication should be transparent and readily available
    • Communication should be for professional and legitimate curricular and/or extracurricular purposes
    • Communication should follow all local, state, and national guidelines and copyright laws.
    • Communication should not include private or confidential information about other students
  5. Help faculty, students, and parents to understand where the “grey” areas of social networking are and how to avoid crossing into those possible pitfalls.
There are tremendous benefits that social media can bring to the school community and educational environment. From being part of the school community both in school and out all the way to helping students learn to navigate the challenges and opportunities that social networking will present them during their lives. A good district social media policy can bring forward positive beneficial interactions for everyone. Additionally, it is also not bad to develop and write a “personal” social media plan or set of guidelines as an individual. This will help you answer that “friend” question confidently and decisively when you discover that student or parent friend request in your inbox.

Image Credit: Intersection Consulting via Flickr CC

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