Should Schools be on Twitter?

flea

It’s prize giving at Flea’s school this week.

I know, because one of the school’s Twitter accounts Tweeted about it.

I also know that one of the junior classes had a really fun looking field trip last week, and the kids got covered in mud. I know that because another class Twitter account Tweeted a photo of it. I know about science classes and prizes and homework.

I know a lot of stuff, basically.

On the one hand, it’s fantastic – because frankly, I’m not nearly organised or studious enough to read those weekly updates that come home in Flea’s bag, I only ever check the school website to look at term dates and opening hours of the uniform shop, because Flea’s lost yet another school jumper.

On the other hand, I kind of hope my kid never ends up on that Twitter feed. 

I made a conscious decision early on that Flea (not her real name) is entitled to create her own digital footprint, when she’s old enough to actually understand what a digital footprint is, and how it can impact her life.

Personally, I don’t think eight is old enough to do that. I’ve seen friends of Flea’s on Twitter, Tweeting their teachers, talking about their friends, using everyone’s full names. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t worry me. And that’s without even mentioning the shock of seeing primary school kids posting photos on Twitter asking people to rate them on a scale that goes from “hot” to “dog”.

So while Flea has a blog, and she’s just joined Instagram, there are strict rules in place around her use of technology. Things like:

  • You never use your real name online.
  • Your Instagram account is private.
  • Never post a picture where you can see your school uniform logo.
  • Never give out our address, or the name of your school.
  • Never post a photo of another child unless their Mum or Dad has said it’s okay.
  • Your Apple accounts are linked to mine, so every message you get, I get.

But it worries me that, actually, Flea has a digital footprint already – on her school’s website. So I’ve added to her social media rules:

  • You don’t follow, or engage with, any of your school’s social media accounts
  • You don’t follow, or engage with, any other kids at your school who don’t follow our rules.

I feel a bit mean, because part of me thinks how cool it would be if Flea could Tweet her friends after school? But then I figure she’s probably too busy Skyping and talking to them on X-Box Live to feel too badly done about it.

I do sort of feel that if schools are going to BE on social media (and it’s great that they are) then should also be talking to kids about how to engage with the school (and others) safely.

I strongly suspect very few schools have the time and expertise required to do that – and to be fair, they need the support of parents who are often spectacularly uninterested in attending those Internet safety evenings.

Or maybe I should just relax and remember that nothing, but nothing, is likely to get a kid off a social network faster than realising their teachers are on it…

What do you reckon?

 

About 

Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the HIBS100, Foodies100 and Tots100 - an online community of more than 15,000 UK bloggers. She is also a busy single Mum to Flea, the world's coolest eight year old.

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12 Comments

  1. says

    I don’t think Twitter is suitable at all for younger children, it’s too much like the Wild West. I do think that schools can use it creatively though – my daughter is going on a school trip camping out in woods which will have its own dedicated Twitter account for parents to follow.

    The other thing to look out for is the Youtube/G+/Gmail crossover. My son has gmail, so he now automatically has a G+ profile, though he never registered for it, and it shows up any comments he leaves on Youtube videos. The first I knew about this was when his thoughts about various Minecraft videos starting turning up on my G+ feed. He had no idea this was even happening. A digital footprint is harder than ever to avoid.
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  2. says

    This is such a tough one. If I had kids, I would have the rules that you do. I wouldn’t want them to be traceable online but that is so hard to avoid as soon as you do anything online.
    I run PR for Guiding events and that can be so tricky as well. We have camps which have Twitter accounts so that people can engage before the event and parents can follow to see what people are getting up to during the event, and yet I’d not feel happy about sharing photos of the kids. It’s so hard to find the line between keeping up with the technological advances of our times and keeping everyone safe.
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  3. says

    The idea of primary school children being on Twitter, Facebook and other social media fills me with terror! I signed LP up to nursery yesterday and had to sign a form consenting to her using the internet and email during her primary years. She isn’t even three until August! I think if we can limit their social media access then we should for as long as possible.
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  4. says

    I’ve certainly not signed any release forms to allow my children to be featured on the schools (pitiful) social media channels and I wouldn’t until someone has had extensive training and I’m convinced they know what they’re doing.
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  5. says

    It’s a tricky one. I absolutely agree that schools embracing social media is a good thing, from the parents perspective I would love to get information in that way. But at the same time I know a lot of schools are terrified of it, for those exact reasons you’ve said, they don’t know how to police it and guide children in the correct ways of using them.
    Back when I was teaching I went to the trouble of trying to start a class blog, which I thought would be useful for the parents of early years kids who are notoriously non-forthcoming about what they’ve done all day. I set up an adult session on how the parents could use and support the blog, how to support their children with the in house emailing system and all that jazz. Hardly anyone came, and those that did were the parents who were already internet savvy.
    I’m not sure what the answer is, but schools definitely need to work out how to move with the times or they’ll be left laggin behind their pupils.
    x
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  6. says

    I don’t see that it’s a problem if they limit their posts to general school actives and updates on policies, or open days. When they start mentioning kids and where they are going that would make me edgy

  7. says

    We have a school twitter account but I’m the only person who uses it, the others aren’t interested or don’t know how. We have sent home a parental permission form for appearances in various media formats, and I have a list of children who can’t appear on social media and ensure their photos aren’t used. I do tweet photos on their school trips, but not until they’ve come back to school.
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  8. says

    I’m totally with you on all of that. It’s interesting, because I’ve had a couple of very heated debates with teacher friends about children and social media. One quoted the story of a 14 year old boy in her school who was expelled for sending an inappropriate photograph of himslef to a bunch of girls from his class whilst they were on separate sleepovers. High jinks that went too far, but it cost him his school place. For that reason, she maintains, children should not be allowed a facebook account.
    I differ, in that I think the minefield of online interaction is so huge and so important that children need to grow up with it, so they can learn from parents who get it, how to interact, and how to protect themselves. You’ll never stop a child from having on online presence in the end, so surely it’s best that they learn about it whilst they’re still young enough to be influenced by the adults in their lives? A bit like learning how the hob works – it’s really useful, and it will be essential to your life, as long as you use it carefully.
    The problem at the moment is that our children are being raised by a generation who largely don’t get social media. And so they fear it and shy away, or use it inappropriately. I would be very unhappy indeed if my school were posting images and locations of my children while they were away on camp or out on a trip. And I too never show a school logo in a photograph.
    I think it’s very dangerous.
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  9. says

    Hmmm….tough one. I’m all for schools embracing digital-ness and teaching children about not only the importance and influence it has in life but the safety issues it brings with it. I also think it could be a good way of updating parents when their children are on school trips or working on major projects etc. But Twitter is so public, and surely those sorts of updates are what private Facebook groups, where members are moderated (ie the parents only) so there is that element of “need to know basis”. Twitter is too grown up and too public, and I would take the same action that you have with my daughter’s interaction with it.

  10. says

    This is something I’ve been thinking about when the primary school were promoting the PTA twitter account. Now I love twitter and I follow the same rules as you but also only tweet any locations of where we have been once we have left. If I follow the schools PTA it’s letting the cat out of the bag on where he goes to school so I will not be interacting with them on twitter but I will be stalking them every now and then to see what’s going on which is why I think all school accounts should be private.
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  11. says

    My girls are still very young but I agree. I do use the girls names on my blog but I keep thinking that i should change them all with pseudonyms. My girls don’t know now but when they will turn 15 they might be embarrassed and I don’t want that to happen.
    Will be really weird to see tweets from school though…K’s school has a Facebook page with closed and restricted access…
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    • says

      I think it’s a tricky balance – I think because this is my job, I’m more protective of Flea’s privacy, but it’s really a very personal decision.