How to Craft Useful, Student-Centered Social Media Policies
By Tanner Higgin 08/09/18
Whether your school or district has officially adopted social media or not, conversations are happening in and around your school on everything from Facebook to Snapchat. Schools must reckon with this reality and commit to supporting thoughtful and critical social media use among students, teachers and administrators. If not, schools and classrooms risk everything from digital distraction to privacy violations.
Key Elements to Include in a Social Media Policy
- Create parent opt-out forms that specifically address social media use.Avoid blanket opt-outs that generalize all technology or obfuscate how specific social media platforms will be used. (See this example by the World Privacy Forum as a starting point.)
- Use these opt-out forms as a way to have more substantive conversations with parents about what you’re doing and why.
- Describe what platforms are being used, where, when and how.
- Avoid making the consequences of opt-out selections punitive (e.g., student participation in sports, theater, yearbook, etc.).
- Establish baseline guidelines for protecting and respecting student privacy.
- Prohibit the sharing of student faces.
- Restrict location sharing: Train teachers and students on how to turn off geolocation features/location services on devices as well as in specific apps.
- Minimize information shared in teacher’s social media profiles: Advise teachers to list only grade level and subject in their public profiles and not to include specific school or district information.
- Make social media use transparent to students: Have teachers explain their social media plan, and find out how students feel about it.
- Most important: As with any technology, attach social media use to clearly articulated goals for student learning. Emphasize in your guidelines that teachers should audit any potential use of social media in terms of student-centered pedagogy: (1) Does it forward student learning in a way impossible through other means? and (2) Is using social media in my best interests or in my students’?
Moving from Policy to Practice.
Social media policies, like policies in general, are meant to mitigate the risk and liability of institutions rather than guide and support sound pedagogy and student learning. They serve a valuable purpose, but not one that impacts classrooms. So how do we make these policies more relevant to classrooms?
First, it forces policy to get distilled into what impacts classroom instruction and administration. Second, social media changes monthly, and it’s much easier to update a faculty handbook than a policy document. Third, it allows you to align social media issues with other aspects of teaching (assessment, parent communication, etc.) versus separating it out in its own section.
more on social media in education in this IMS blog
more on social media policies in this IMS blog