Student Social Media Guidelines

Part of being a successful citizen is understanding that social media and digital communication are essential parts of our world today.  It is important to recognize that access to information can result in tremendous advantages, but it can also create new responsibilities of which students should be aware.

This document provides information about how to use social media responsibly, both within and outside the school community, by:

  • outlining recommendations for healthy social media communications;
  • providing ideas about how to create a smart digital footprint; and
  • informing you about what to do if you become aware of dangerous postings or other hurtful information.

Definition of Social Media

Social media is any form of online publication or presence that allows interactive communication, including social networks, blogs, photo sharing platforms, websites, forums, and wikis. Examples of social media include, but are not limited to, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Twitter, Schoology, YouTube and Google+.

Some examples of social media uses include:

Blogging about movies, sports, or news events;
Posting updates or activities;
Participating in a teacher-established online groups; or
Using a Google Hangout or Google Meet to work on a class project.

Align your online image with your goals

A digital footprint is the reputation you leave online and can include material posted on blogs, 
mentions on websites, and videos that are uploaded onto sharing sites.  Online actions leave a permanent record and remain online, even if you click “delete.”  Be thoughtful about what you share online and consider how it would appear to family, friends, colleges, and future employers.

Because many colleges and employers search social media before making admissions and hiring decisions, you should use social media as a tool to demonstrate your interests in positive ways.  For example, social media allows you to show who you are as a student online by sharing what you think about and what matters to you. This can help as you get closer to graduation and begin considering post-secondary education and career options. Some examples of how you can use social media for academic advancement include:

  • Commenting on articles in a knowledgeable way; or
  • Starting a blog about current events.

Stand behind your words

You should always take responsibility for the content you post in all social media environments. While you may think that using a fake name may prevent posts from becoming part of your footprint, there are still ways to link that information to the person who posted it (for example, through an Internet IP address or other distinguishing information linking posts). Be your best self online – post accurate information and be accountable for what you say.

Families can be helpful partners

Share your digital footprint with your parents and consider their suggestions.  Get your parents’ input
about what information they feel should remain private and what is fine to post publicly. Your parents
are responsible for what you do online if you are a minor and may want your passwords and usernames to monitor your social media use. Additionally, because technology is constantly changing, you may know more about social media than your family, so you may also want to show your parents and other family members how to create an online presence themselves.

Post responsibly - Be mindful of your audience

Using social media academically is an extension of your classroom environment.  When you use social media for academic purposes, such as for a school assignment, treat the platform as a digital extension of your classroom – the same rules apply online as they do at school.  For example, if you would not make fun of a classmate in English class, do not do it online either.  For school-related social media, do not tag student posts, photos, or videos unless your teacher gives you permission, as this may expose the content to audiences for whom it was not intended.

Put your best foot forward

People of all ages sometimes act differently on social media than they would “face-to-face” assuming that, because they are not communicating in person, they are not accountable for their actions.  In fact, because of the nature of the digital world, you should be as responsible, if not more, when acting online.  As you never know who will ultimately be reading content online, always assume that anyone might have access.  If you do not know who will be reading it, ask yourself if you would be okay with a parent or relative reviewing your content.  If not, there might be a better way to get your point across.

Pause before you post

Once a comment is posted online, you cannot later say, “never mind.”  It may seem funny or harmless when you post it, but it could hurt or offend someone.  As guidance, take a few extra minutes to think about whether a post will be hurtful or embarrassing or whether it could negatively affect a future opportunity.  For example, if you post an aggressive or inflammatory comment online because you felt heated in the moment, this may end up making you a less attractive candidate in some employers’ minds. 

Consider the consequences to your online actions

Personal use of social media may have an effect at school.  While at times, it is easy to tell whether a social media use is school-related or personal, at other times, it may be difficult to distinguish fully between different uses.  Sometimes, personal social media use, including off-hours use, may result in disruption at school and the school may need to get involved.  This could include disciplinary action such as a parent meeting or suspension. To be safe, be in control of what you do online, even if it is during personal time.  For example, if your classmate is tagging you in rude Tweets, do not reciprocate in a similar way.  Instead, stay positive, do what you know is right, and consider blocking or reporting this person if you feel it is warranted.

Protect yourself

There are many ways to protect yourself online. For example, only accept friend requests from people
you know. You may interact online with people you have never met in person.  Use caution, find out as
much as you can about the person, and tell a parent if you are considering meeting one of these people face to face. Additionally, while it is important to be yourself online, it is also important to remember not to post too many identifying details (such as where you live or financial information) because revealing that information can be potentially dangerous or compromise your identity in some way. Do not share passwords with friends and be sure that the computers do not automatically save passwords. Always log off when you have finished using a site – do not just click out of the browser.

Adjust your privacy settings appropriately

Privacy settings are automatically set by social media providers governing who can see your posts, how information is linked, and what data is available to the public.  Each social media platform has different privacy setting defaults and some change those settings without making it obvious to you.  As a user of social media, you should determine whether to change the default settings to make access to postings more or less private.  For example, if you are creating a personal site to promote a social or political issue, you likely want to make that site open to everyone.  However, if you want to discuss a project you are doing in class, it may be better to limit access only to a small group of classmates.

Understand your rights

There is no right to privacy when using school-related social media. If you are using the school’s device or network, the school may review what you post.  Elmwood School provides the “Internet-Don’t List” related to online communication that includes the following:

  • Causing harm to others or damaging technology-related property;
  • Gaining or attempting to gain unauthorized access to school systems;
  • Using school technology and/or systems for financial gain or business activities; or
  • Engaging in criminal or unlawful activities online.