The use of the internet is as popular and common in schools today as it is in other walks of life. Most children can not even remember a world without the internet. However, unlike in other fields, schools have an added responsibility to protect their pupils when both using the internet and when appearing on it (i.e. on the school’s website.)
Has your school taken steps to protect their students in relation to the internet and have your staff or colleagues been trained in what they should and should not post on the internet too?
Avoiding the internet because of safety concerns is also not the answer. So what should you been doing?
Internet Safety in General – Before posting anything on the internet at all, those tasked with the school’s internet presence should agree on what they actually want to share about the school on the internet. They also need to note and make other teachers/team members aware that:
- Parental/Guardian permission is always required before any pupils can be featured in name, picture, videos or in reference to a piece of their work on the internet, as posted by the school.
- Where photos of pupils are displayed, there should be no names included in the captions as this could place a particular student in danger.
- Certain interactions between students and teachers maybe deemed inappropriate and if carried out should always be done so in the official capacity and openness of an official school forum.
To help with all staff members’ understanding and awareness of such important procedures and rules, all schools should set up and distribute their own internet and social media guidelines. An example of such a policy can be seen below:
The different social media have their own additional security settings which can be activated on all official pages or accounts.
On Facebook you can control via the permissions settings what content can be posted to a school’s Facebook page. The obvious areas for restriction are limiting the ability of your audience to post photos and videos on your wall. If you’re unsure of how restrictive you should be, then the safest bet is to be draconian to begin with, limiting most commentary and to remove the restrictions slowly when you feel more comfortable in trusting those who view your page. This is easy to do and it comes across better if a school is seen to become more permissive than more restrictive. In the long run, preventing visitors from posting comments on your page defeats the whole purpose of Facebook.
Unlike personal Facebook pages, neither fans nor administrators should be able to tag a person’s picture.
Facebook also has the capability to block certain people, language or other unwanted content. You can for example set up a list of words of phrases that cannot be mentioned on a Facebook page. Facebook has an email notification system so that your administrator is aware ASAP of any posts or comments made on their Facebook page.
If you’re managing a Twitter account for the school, you similarly have the ability to be notified whenever someone mentions the school. If you receive malicious or inappropriate messages from other users, you have the ability to block their account or report them for spam.
Internet safety will always be a primary concern for schools but this should not put you off social media. The main rule is to expect the unexpected and always be prepared for unwanted or inappropriate posts or attention. And when this happens, respond quickly, whether it’s responding to the user, or blocking them. Embrace your Internet and social media policy and be comfortable with its implications and your efficiency in social media usage will follow.
To find out more about how schools should and can use the internet and social media, don’t miss our next social media crash course for schools on April 25th!