Social Media Policies and Schools


At the start of the 21st century when social media first started to become a common thing, I was asked to help write a social media policy for a university. This was new ground. Very few schools had policies and few schools were actually using social media themselves.

The question of having a policy in place came from three different directions. There was a desire to have a policy for what students could do. There was also a desire to formalize what faculty and staff could do in their capacity as employees. Communications departments at the school wanted to formalize how they would handle “official” social media accounts and content.

About a year after I worked on the university policies, I was asked to help a K-12 school district to create a social media policy. Some things were similar, including the three groups to be addressed, but K-12 has unique concerns and restrictions.

The K-12 district was actually more concerned at first with the district’s use and not teachers or students who I thought needed the information the most. Their focus was not surprising since social media policies, like most school policies, are meant to mitigate the risk and liability of institutions rather than guide and support sound pedagogy and learning.

The format was a three-ring faculty handbook. Three-ring because they knew that policies would change and pages would be added and subtracted. Social media changes fast. It was the place where faculty already had their policies on assessment, parent communication, etc.

A few things that come up in discussion and were included:
Parent permission and opt-out forms. and information sheets for teachers, students, and parents on what platforms are being used, where, when, and how.
Baseline guidelines for protecting and respecting student privacy., such as not sharing student faces or using student names as identifiers. This was true for most cases, but there had been policies earlier for media, such as using a student’s image and name in the local paper for an award.
Restrict location sharing
Minimize information shared in teacher social media profiles
For teachers, social media should have clearly articulated goals for student learning. For the school, district and administration, those goals will differ and so should the policies.

I doubt that the policies I worked on in 2000-2003 still exist in the form we wrote them. I would hope in the past 20 years that al of them have been expanded and revised.