Parents reviewing social media guidelines with their daughter
For Administrators

Helping Parents Set Strong Boundaries for Children's Use of Social Media

By Brian Gatens June 2, 2014

Many parents find themselves ill-equipped to navigate the murky and sometimes rocky waters of social media. This generation of children has always been online in many different ways. Whether connecting via email and social websites or streaming TV shows and movies on their computers or tablets, they inhabit a world that has always been plugged in and easily accessible.

Parents today, for the most part, have not grown up in this world, which leads to a disconnect between them and their children. This is where teachers can step in and help bridge this divide.

Offer an overview

All teachers begin the school year by laying the groundwork on what they expect from students and parents. Integrating a social media component into your class overview will help parents learn about all the different ways their children can interact online.

This new knowledge will help them identify websites and apps such as “Yik Yak” or “Ask.FM” that can be far more troublesome than helpful because we’re dealing with children. The overview will also help parents discern whether an app or website on their children’s devices is appropriate and helpful for school. Examples of such beneficial sites include Edmodo and Teachertube.

Follow the ‘true, kind, necessary’ model

In the same context as the class overview on social media sites and apps, you can also reinforce your basic expectations for student communication and interaction. Regardless of the venue, whether it’s face-to-face, over the phone, or through a website, you should reinforce the well-known principle that all communications should encompass at least two of these three criteria:

  • True
  • Kind
  • Necessary

Emphasize that it’s great if all three of the criteria can be met, but two will suffice. Children should be trained to keep their words, postings, and tweets to themselves if none (or only one) of these criteria is present.

Explicitly teach expectations

The true/kind/necessary model can be a springboard for discussing poor choices on social media and reinforcing how you expect the children to treat each other at all times.

Well-behaved, kind, and considerate children rarely (if ever) turn venomous on social media. The more that you reinforce appropriate behavior at all times, the better students will be at meeting those expectations when they’re outside your supervision. Pass these expectations along to your parent community too.

Use cautionary tales

You won’t have to look far on the Internet to find stories about social media postings going viral and ending in tragedy. Share these stories with parents and encourage honest and frank conversations at home about what appropriate online behavior looks like.

Nothing is as strong as a good example, and getting parents on the same page as you will help both the home and the classroom.

Normalize social media

The negative effects of social media very often dominate all of our discussions regarding its use. Instead of ignoring these sites and apps, consider them an opportunity to connect more strongly with your students and their parents.

Today, more than ever, students are absorbing information in different ways, so using current technology to reach out to them will only strengthen your teaching practice. By normalizing the use of social media in your classroom, you’re helping parents to gain a deeper understanding of what it is and how it can improve their children’s schooling.

Make sure you know school policies

Many school districts have been proactive in adopting clear and strong policies on teachers’ and students’ use of social media. Before integrating anything into your professional practice, be sure to review all relevant policies and have a conversation with your supervisor. Be certain to work inside the boundaries of your school’s expectations.

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