At the BETT Show on Friday 23rd January 2015, I met two very interesting eSafety champions.
Meet Emma and Charlotte Robertson, better known as @DigitalSisters and Digital Awareness UK, an e-safety organisation that works in schools to provide practical and up-to-date social media guidance for students, parents and teachers.
This is a guest post from two sisters and social media lovers, campaigning to help improve e-safety standards in schools.
Ever feel like it’s impossible to keep on top of the ever evolving digital landscape and all the opportunities and obstacles it brings? With e-safety increasingly in the spotlight, we advise thousands of schools across the country around how to safeguard teachers and students against social media-related issues such as cyber-bullying, sexting and security violations.
We’ve distilled some of our key insights into 10 recommendations that every school should consider if they want to help prevent their school from being the next to hit the headlines after a social media crisis.
- Get a robust social media policy in place – Are teachers allowed to be ‘friends’ with their students on Facebook? Are pupils allowed to post your assembly on YouTube without permission? Are you allowed to moan about your job on Twitter? If you don’t know the answers to these questions it’s definitely time to get a social media policy in place. This is sometimes part of a broader e-safety policy and sets standards for employees and students by outlining in writing, what is regarded as acceptable behaviour on social media.
- Appoint a dedicated social media guru – Most schools have a tech person at hand to deal with all things ICT-related. These people come in many different guises – sometimes they’re called e-safety officers, sometimes technicians and sometimes it’s just one of the younger members of staff who are often most up to speed; they need to be trained up, accountable and able to navigate their way through any issues the school may face on social media.
- Keep the conversation going with students – Often when we run workshops with pupils, we’re the first people to have honest, real, two-way conversations about how they are using social media. They open up to us about some of the problems they’ve faced on social media, which on many occasions have to be escalated to the police immediately. E-safety is already part of the curriculum and it has a profound impact on the health and wellbeing of your students. So whether you’re doing it as part of the curriculum or not, be inquisitive and start conversations with your students about their social media usage.
- Establish a direct route into the police – Your Police Liaison Officer or Community Support Officer is there to support you when it comes to safeguarding the school and to hold your hand through any issues your school may face when it comes to social media safety. Make sure your school maintains close links with this person and has them on speed dial should you find yourself in a situation where they’re needed.
- Get the parents involved – Parents often struggle to keep on top of how to manage their children’s safe social media usage as much as schools do. In our experience, it’s a million times more powerful when both the children and parents are educated simultaneously on social media safety as it ensures the advice we give the children gets backed up at home. Whether it happens through emails, letters or parent workshops (which we think are most effective), it’s vital that parents are aware of the measures your school is taking to combat social media-related issues and are supported on how to minimise them at home.
- Get to grips with social media – It’s impossible to understand what the issues are if you’re out of touch with what social media channels are and how your pupils are using them. At present, the most popular networks we’re seeing children use are Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. If you don’t use these already, why not set up anonymous profiles and have a play around with the technology yourself. Or if that’s too much effort, there are a ton of “how to” videos on YouTube for all key social media channels.
- Keep on top of current affairs – Every week a different school is in the headlines after being hit by a serious incident of grooming, social media-related suicide or sexting. Keep an eye on the news to identify how schools have landed themselves in these situations and how they have pulled themselves out of them. You never know when these learnings might come in handy.
- Ensure you have a crisis plan in place – If one of your teachers is suspended for sexting or a student is involved in a severe case of cyber-bullying, what’s the first thing you should do? Before the police, the media and parents come knocking on your door, you need to know exactly how you’d manage the situation. Write up a plan that plots out roles and responsibilities, a step-by-step action plan and the contact details for everyone you’d need to turn to in the event of a crisis. Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail!
- Get your staff skilled up on social – What training programmes do you have in place to ensure teachers in your school are equipped to handle digital-related issues? How is e-safety part of their CPD? If it’s not, get a solution in place quickly to ensure your school is able to respond to the influx of queries students and parents are now asking teachers when it comes to e-safety. Most importantly, this will help them to spot issues bubbling away under the surface before they explode.
- Remember actions speak louder than words – Getting a robust social media policy in place, appointing a social media expert; start a teacher training programme. It is essential if you want to protect your school from a social media crisis. But, the true test will come, when you find yourselves in the thick of a crisis. It’s one thing to write a social media policy, it’s another thing getting every member of staff to understand and adhere to it. Make sure social media safety is part of your school’s DNA and lead by example. The rest will follow…
We at Digital Awareness UK support schools with all the recommendations outlined above. We use leading developers, YouTube stars, hackers and social media specialists to inspire students to enjoy using social media safely. If you’d like to work with us to help bolster your existing e-safety efforts, get in touch with us at www.digitalawarenessuk.com or tweet @DigitalSisters
A second blogpost is due to be published next; Social Media Failure from the Classroom, with 3 case studies.
My Safer Internet Day Assembly resource is here. It can be adapted.
Click the image to download …