As a supply teacher, I often get to chat with teachers and teaching staff about general issues within schools. One break duty, I asked a fellow teacher what she thought the biggest concern within schools was. Without taking a second to think she replied, ‘social media in school.’
According to the Anti-bullying Alliance, “around one in five children aged 10 to 15 years in England and Wales (19%) experienced at least one type of online bullying behaviour in the year ending March 2020, equivalent to 764,000 children. Nearly three out of four children (72%) who had experienced an online bullying behaviour experienced at least some of it at school or during school time.”
Of course, social media in schools many advantages, and can and should be used in the curriculum. So how, as teachers and school staff, can we help children to stay safe when using social media in school and outside, and to not participate or be a victim of cyberbullying?
We have put together some simple tips and helpful resources on social media to guide you as teachers, support staff and parents in raising awareness of social media in school education.
6 Tips for Using Social Media in School
In the interconnected world of digital communication, safety and safeguarding are paramount when introducing social media into schools. Here are our 6 Tips for Using Social Media in School and creating a secure online environment for students and educators alike. From setting stringent privacy settings to educating students about potential online threats, our tips are designed to ensure that schools can utilise platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter without compromising the safety of their community.
1. Keep an on-going and open conversation about cyberbullying
It’s not an uncommon event for students within a classroom to fall out or argue, but when this happens outside of the classroom and is online, then it becomes a little trickier to control. Some classes have a group chat on WhatsApp, but other sites that children may communicate on are Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, TikTok and Ask.FM. Content can be created about students, teachers or people associated with the school.
It must be made very clear to children that any type of bullying – whether in person or online is completely unacceptable and will be reported and dealt with accordingly. Regular reminders and lessons to give children all the facts will help deliver this message, as well as how to use social media in school and externally correctly.
The best way to tackle this issue is to create an atmosphere of positivity within the classroom, where children have opportunities to create friendships and feel part of a team in their class. This will make teaching anti-bullying easier and more effective.
Voicing concerns and reporting incidents of bullying should be easy and without fear of shame, so that any children who have fallen victim to this must feel able to seek help.
2. Safeguard children against online abuse
The government document, Keeping Children Safe in Education, highlights the risks that children face online, and the role that the school or college has in safeguarding them:
“All staff should be aware that technology is a significant component in many safeguarding and wellbeing issues. Children are at risk of abuse and other risks online as well as face to face………children can also abuse other children online….”
School staff need to understand their role in safeguarding the children. Which leads us to number 3.
3. Educate anyone working with children on online safety
It is important that all staff working with children are aware of social media platforms and how they work. Many teachers and support staff may be completely unaware of how social media works and could miss something that a child says or is upset about because it does not seem concerning. Social media in school education could be addressed in staff training days and communicated in staff newsletters and emails.
Childnet has resources for teachers and professionals who work with children. It provides guidance on a range of safety topics for teachers and schools. There are resources to help with safeguarding and how to report any concerns. Education Sessions are also available to book for your school. Something that would no doubt be of value.
4. Proper and continued communication with parents
Communication is key and often parents are simply unaware of some of the dangers that lurk online and how easily their child could become a victim of something unpleasant. Information should be shared with parents regarding how to allow safe use of social media in schools.
The UK Safer Internet Centre has fantastic resources where parents and teachers can find information on each social platform including age requirement, safety tools and how to use them, as well as how to report anything concerning.
5. Teaching children online safety at any opportunity. PSHE, assemblies, guest speakers etc.
Children are taught internet safety from Key Stage 1 onwards so by secondary school children should have a good awareness of what cyberbullying is and how to stay safe online. The most important thing to teach is what to do if something happens either to you or someone you know. At Secondary school age, students are much more likely to share information with their peers than with an adult, so children need to be aware that it is important to report it if they are worried about a friend. Assemblies, guest speakers and regular input in lessons throughout the child’s school life is the best way to get this message across.
6. School online safety policy
It is important to remember that students can be victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying. Schools should have a policy on online safety and cyberbullying and make it clear to all members of the school community that any type of bullying will not be tolerated. These policies must be available for anyone to read and be displayed on the school website.
Resources and helpful websites
UK Safer Internet Centre (Social media guides – UK Safer Internet Centre)
A handy guide with advice about key social media platforms and apps.
Keeping Children Safe in Education (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/keeping-children-safe-in-education–2)
Government safeguarding document which mentions social media.
Information on cyber bullying by the NSPCC.
Any school reporting content on TikTok should report it through the Professionals Online Safety Helpline.
Learn More About Our Planners
At The School Planner Company, we have an option to include your school’s own online safety policy in your student planners, so that students, parents and teachers can easily access and refer to it.