How to create a K-12 district social media policy
The conversation has moved away from whether or not you should allow social media in schools to how to deal with it properly. This is why it’s essential to have a K-12 district social media policy as part of your overall eSafety policy.
But how do you go about creating a policy that will effectively cover this ever-changing landscape? Social media can be a minefield full of quick changes and strange new trends designed to entice the younger generations.
Don’t worry! We’ve got some great tips to ensure you are covered from all angles. Just remember that “teaching students and engaging families who live their lives in an increasingly digital world means the embrace of social media is no longer optional—it is imperative”.
Let’s get started.
Address the use of social media in general
Social media is an incredibly vast arena. It has numerous playing fields, and they’re changing constantly. Facebook is the biggest, but then there’s YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Tumblr, Reddit, Viber, Pinterest, and the list just keeps on going. What’s even scarier is that these are the platforms that are popular right now. Nevermind what’s going to be popular next month or next year.
The best way to prepare is to make your K-12 district social media policy generic. We don’t mean that your policy should be wishy-washy by any means. Rather, talk about behavior on social media in general and provide guidelines on what is appropriate.
Being too specific on platforms or devices doesn’t allow your policy to remain flexible. This is vital as new platforms emerge, tablets and smartphones get upgraded and trends change. In addition, focusing on behavior rather than platforms or tools shows your students that you understand the ebbs and flows of social media.
Emphasize the role of the individual
It’s essential to teach your students about responsible online behavior. The guidelines provided in your policy will allow your students to grow as digital citizens in a safe environment. You are also treating your students with respect when you give them ownership of how they behave online.
Make sure you outline the consequences of things like cyberbullying and visiting unsavory websites. Show your students how easy it can be to go down a path to inappropriate behavior online.
By doing this, you are also futureproofing your policy. Whether it’s on Facebook or some yet-to-be-determined, new platform, this risk of negative behavior will always exist.
Don’t just look at the negatives
It’s important to have a strict list of don’ts in your policy. These should include sites that are forbidden because they aren’t appropriate for children, behavior that isn’t allowed like bullying and sharing inappropriate content or hate speech. However, it’s also as important to see the positive side of social media.
Your K-12 district “social media policy shouldn’t focus only on the problems”. It should look at sharing good news, connecting with people from all over the world, and building a safe community. By pointing out just the negatives, you are telling students that you think social media is a bad thing and that you don’t understand why they love it so much.
A positive outlook also empowers teachers to explore and teach using social media. Additionally, it encourages your students to use the platforms in a safe, responsible way.
Keep it safe
Stranger danger is very real on the internet. One of the main priorities of your policy should be to keep your students safe from online predators and inappropriate content. Unfortunately, this responsibility has to lie with the schools and the districts. Too often, the bigger social media platforms don’t do enough moderation of their content – YouTube is a big offender.
Mobile Guardian offers robust, web filtering as an add-on to our Mobile Device Management (MDM) software. This allows schools to blacklist and whitelist certain websites or categories of websites. You can set time limits on these filters too, meaning you can stop students from accessing sites you don’t want them to get onto during class time but give them more freedom during recess.
You can control all of these settings at a district level or at a classroom level. It’s the ultimate control over access to the world wide web.
Legally, your K-12 district social media policy can only cover behavior that “disrupts the school environment in a material and substantial way”. This means that anything that happens off campus must be dealt with carefully. If it impacts the environment in class or on school grounds, then the school can intervene.
Ensure your policy covers how to deal with off-campus incidents in detail. Speak to all the parents too so that they know what behavior will be considered grounds for disciplinary action in school.
Include teachers in your K-12 district social media policy
Show teachers how to use social media responsibly. If they have social profiles that students can interact with, it’s essential for those to reflect the same ideals in your district policy. Ensure they have strong guidelines for how to speak on behalf of the school and district online, and when it is inappropriate for them to do so. Your policy can also state what kind of behavior is acceptable for teachers to publicly display on their own social media.
Many teachers choose to have private, personal accounts for use with friends and family, and public accounts for their students to interact with. This is a great way for teachers to safeguard against accidentally exposing their students to content they don’t need to see.
Top tip for teachers: If they accept a friend or follower request from one student, they should do so for all students. Being selective shows favoritism within a class.
Make it accessible
Finally, make sure that your policy is easily understood. You’re helping no one with a policy that’s full of jargon, is very long-winded and takes forever to wrap your head around. Find the right balance of ensuring you are covered legally but still allowing teachers and students to understand exactly where their boundaries lie.
If no one reads the policy, it’ll be a waste of everyone’s time. “Helping to define the respectful parameters around participating in social media is the goal here.” Give your teachers guidelines that they can use proactively in the classroom.
A few social media policy examples
We hope these guidelines help you get started with your own K-12 district social media policy. If you still need some inspiration, here are a few examples from the real world that you can take a look at: