Advice on the use of social media

Introduction

Social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) has had widespread impact on the way we communicate.

There are clearly many benefits but at the same time there are disadvantages. Unfortunately, schools are experiencing an increasing number of situations where social media has been the vehicle for inappropriate behaviour by both pupils and parents.

There are occasions when things said in the virtual world are at best unhelpful and, at worst, may constitute harassment, bullying or intimidation which could ultimately lead to police involvement.

Social media and pupil bullying

There have been a growing number of situations where schools have had to deal with pupils using social media to be unkind to others. What starts as something seemingly harmless takes no account of how those on the receiving end might feel nor does it recognise how quickly things can get out of control and become extremely unpleasant.

Whilst things generally take place off the school site and outside school hours, the resulting ‘fallout’ in such situations can hurt relationships within school and have a resulting negative impact on teaching and learning.

If you have concerns that your child might be on the receiving end of hurtful social media posts, or playing a part themselves, please let us know. It is clearly the parents’ responsibility to deal with this when it happens outside of school. In that sense our ability to help is very limited, but we would at least contact parents of children involved to make them aware of the situation.

Social media as a forum for parents’ views

The staff work tremendously hard to provide the very best education for our children and we always want to work in partnership with parents. However, we recognise that there will be occasions where, for whatever reason, parents may not agree with a particular course of action or may have specific concerns.

It is entirely natural to discuss school life and express our thoughts and opinions with others face to face or on the phone. However, some of these conversations are now also being aired on social media and the person posting this has little control over who might ultimately see it.

Sadly, some of these comments and observations can cause offence if aired in the public domain, and may in some cases be intimidating or even slanderous.

This is not to suggest that staff are above criticism or don’t welcome feedback. However, it is always best when this is constructive and is focused on finding an acceptable solution. When difficult things need to be said, it is usually best to do so face-to-face, or at least in some form of private communication, such as an e-mail or letter. We would very much appreciate if that could be done.

Common questions

If the site I post comments on is ‘private’ then why should I worry what I say, as only my ‘friends’ can read it?

Once a comment has been posted there is nothing to stop other users forwarding it. What started as an initial ‘sounding off’ can quickly spread and cause a lot of unintended hurt.

Could the police get involved?

Yes, if postings are considered to be threatening or discriminatory then the police may become involved and have the authority to seize mobile devices and contact service providers.

How can parents help?

Final thoughts

We have no wish to stifle debate or discourage parents expressing their views, but want to encourage and promote positive role models in both the digital and real world. Whilst our children may sometimes be more knowledgeable in using modern communication technologies than us as adults, it is the partnership of schools and parents that can help them to use it wisely, safely and responsibly.

Many thanks for taking your time to read this.

Keeping your child safe online

So, how can you protect your child online?

The answer is simple. If you understand the internet and understand what the risks are, there are a number of things you can do that will make your child safer online...

Being involved and talking to children

Social Networks have a minimum age restriction, usually age thirteen. Parents should talk to their children about the reasons behind the age restriction as they are there for a reason. Accessing such sites too early can expose children to unnecessary bullying.

It is also very important to ensure children and young people feel comfortable about telling their parents things that have happened online. Talking to their children will help parents to understand the ways in which they are using the internet, social media and their mobile phone. Talking to children about responsible behaviour is important as sometimes children who are victims of cyberbullying may also be involved in cyberbullying others. Ensure they know they can go and talk to an adult or parent if they are being bullied and need support. How parents talk to their children will depend on their age. 

Useful websites