How safe is your school’s social media account?

A school social media account can be the ideal space for school’s to share pupil, staff and school achievements, build a community with parents and prospective parents, and showcase daily school life and ethos. It’s also a great marketing tool for schools, especially now that social media is a primary tool for communication, socialising and community awareness for the majority of society. 

At Natterhub, we positively encourage the posting of content online especially if it celebrates, spreads positivity or allows for learning to be distributed. Alongside this, the Natterhub lessons teach pupils to consider who their audience is online, and whether or not the content they post is appropriate, safe and/or acceptable.

Joshua Rosenberg, Assistant Professor of STEM Education at the University of Tennessee recently conducted research surrounding how schools used social media during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and came across some frightening figures. Out of 10 million photo posts made by school social media accounts between 2005-2020, 500,000 of these identified pupils by first and last name. This information paired with the school’s location is a clear violation of pupil privacy, and is certainly a safeguarding concern. Bullies and those trying to make unwanted contact with children can use this information to target young people, as well as data mining companies.

So how can schools make sure their social media accounts are painting the desired representation of their school, whilst keeping pupils and members of their community safe?

  1. Never use full names
    Always caption images with generic terms such as “this pupil” or “he/she”.
  2. Where possible avoid close ups of full faces
    With many  platforms using facial recognition, having a full face photograph alongside other revealing content creates opportunity for online vulnerability and safety breaches.
  3. Always ask for consent
    It’s important to ask for consent from parents and pupils. Schools will inevitably have a media release form for parents to give their permission for use of images in a public space, but do make sure the pupil is also asked.
  4. Choose group photos
    Try to use photos of groups of children rather than those of individual pupils. This ensures that no child is embarrassed or affected by the image in later life, eg. when future employers are looking at your online profile.
  5. Check and update your Acceptable Use Policy
    At the risk of sounding boring, make sure your Online Safety / E-safety / Acceptable Use Policies are up-to-date and acknowledged by all staff.
  6. Make your school social media account private
    For the five-star security rating, keep your school social media accounts private and only accept friend requests of those known to the school or those who have been invited by other parents. 

Well-managed social media channels are a great insight into your school and are an engaging way of celebrating what’s going on day-to-day as well as creating a sense of community. Ensuring the accounts and your pupils and community are safe is vital when it comes to setting up and running the channels. Staff all being on the same page and fully committed to online safety is your school’s new non-negotiable.