- Studies show that 50% of students have social media accounts by age 12 and 83% of students have their own cell phone by the time they reach middle school. But allowing teachers and students to connect with one another through social media opens the door to inappropriate relationships and potential abuse, eSchool News reports.
- The problem is especially concerning as 70% of teens, according to research, tend to hide their online activity from parents through various apps designed for the purpose, a factor that child sexual abusers tend to use to their advantage, the article said.
- To prevent potential abuse or questionable relationships between students and teachers, experts recommend that school districts only allow contact between teachers and students through district electronic platforms and only on district-provided devices that restrict access to social media apps. They also recommend that school districts prohibit teachers and students from communicating through calls, texts, personal email accounts, or social media, and that teachers avoid posting inappropriate images or personal information on public social media accounts.
The use of social media can provide schools and students with opportunities to connect to the world, and they can also be used creatively to tell a school’s story, to celebrate success stories, or to rebrand a school.
These efforts can also involve social media-savvy students who can offer valuable insight into how it can be used. Some schools have used social media efforts by staff and students to distribute clever videos that acknowledge staff efforts or even to make snow day announcements highly entertaining.
However, school districts also need to consider the pitfalls when establishing clear, enforceable social media policies designed to protect teachers and students alike. Social media connections between students and teachers can lead to disaster. In some cases, this interaction has led to misunderstandings, inappropriate relationships, or sexual contact. Even the posting of provocative pictures by teachers on their own Facebook pages has resulted in embarrassing situations for the schools involved.
School districts are increasingly considering the potential harm these social media interactions can cause as well as the legal implications involved for the school district. As social media policies are examined and updated, school leaders need to communicate the potential for harm and look for solutions that promote the best use of social media in school setting.