Social Networking and the Educational System Best Practices: Facebook

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A recent news story and online poll entitled “SOUND OFF: How Should Schools Handle Student Misbehavior on Facebook?” in the Burnsville, MN Patch prompted me to think.  Although I wanted to comment on the topic, I quickly realized that there’s so much involved that what I needed to share simply wouldn’t fit into a simple “Comment”.

There’s no doubt that the topic of how schools and the educational system should handle the use Facebook and other forms of social networking by students, teachers, school faculty and staff is highly controversial.  Unfortunately, as schools move forward to address this topic, it’s most often reactive… meaning that it’s discussed and addressed AFTER something happens… and then it’s generally “the blind leading the blind” which will inevitably backfire and, more than likely, lead to lengthy legal battles, ACLU involvement, etc…  Considerations include:

  • School guidelines, policies, procedures, and best practices
  • Responsibility – parents vs. teachers, faculty, and school staff
  • Concerns regarding cyber-bullying
  • Legal issues such as freedom of speech, privacy, and first amendment rights
  • On-campus vs. off campus issues
  • School related events vs. non-school related events
  • Appropriate and inappropriate connections and relationships
  • and there are more…

I can’t address all of these issues in a single article as there’s so much involved with each one.  Today, I’m going to provide a simple solution for the “appropriate and inappropriate connections and relationships” as it pertains to Facebook.  Of course, it’s important to note that this should be part of a well thought out and documented plan, policy, and set of guidelines before rushing out and doing it.

I’m personally connected with many types of people through Facebook.  I have friends who are political figures such as State Governors, members of Congress, Senators, Representatives, Mayors, a State Supreme Court Justice, news anchors and reporters, as well as high ranking law enforcement officials and others who must walk the line between their personal life and their professional existence.   In many cases, I’m not only a personal friend on their Facebook profile page, but I’ve also “Liked” their “professional page”.

Should students and teachers be “Friends” on Facebook?  Absolutely not!  Why? Because there is an alternative.  Facebook provides the ability for teachers to have their own “Facebook Business Page”.  It’s the same type of page used by political figures, news personalities, celebrities, and others.  It’s a way to keep private life and professional life separate.  Where can you find this?

  1. Visit facebook.com/pages
  2. Click the “Create Page” button located at the top right-hand side of the page.
  3. Click on the “Artist, Band, or Public Figure” category located in the first column of row number two.
  4. When the drop-down menu for “Choose a Category” appears scroll down and look for the word “Teacher”.
  5. From there, you simply begin filling in the blanks.

Ignorance is no excuse for poor decisions.  I’m reminded of what an attendee said at the conclusion of one of my seminars.  He said, “I didn’t know that I didn’t know that”.  This has never been more true when it comes to the use of social networking and social media.  HOW these Facebook pages should be set up and used requires education.  Important considerations include, but are not limited to how to:

  1. Properly set up Facebook pages
  2. Adjust the Facebook page settings
  3. Manage and control content, posts, tagging, comments, and sharing
  4. Understand appropriate and inappropriate use
  5. Connect your professional page with your personal profile while keeping your personal and professional life separate.

These are just a few elements where education is a must!  To suggest that teachers, school faculty, and administrators be forbidden to use Facebook is NOT the solution.   Social Networking is not going away.  It’s evolving and growing daily.  Learning how to capitalize on its existence and make it a productive tool requires admitting the need to learn more and then determine HOW to use it positively and effectively.  It is possible.

I’d be happy to come to your next school board meeting or sit down with your school faculty, staff, and attorney to help and provide more professional insight where this controversial topic is concerned.

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