Using Social Media Tools: Considerations

Things to consider when setting up a profile

As a professional working in a Victorian government school you are expected to act in a manner that reflects your standing in the community; that of a respectful and responsible citizen. Therefore, it is imperative that you always reflect on how you conduct yourself online.

When using social media tools always:

1. Consider any relevant codes of conduct or employer policies in relation to using social media

a) Familiarise yourself with your employer’s policies including their Code of Conduct and Acceptable Use Agreements.

b) Familiarise yourself with any professional codes of conduct that may also apply to your use of social media tools.

For more information, see: Policies and Procedures

2. Determine the purpose for setting up your profile

It is recommended that you define your online space as either personalORprofessional and then apply the appropriate privacy and/or filtering controls. Combining your personal space with your professional space may result in the blurring of your professional relationship with students, parents and others in the school community; or may, in some circumstances, even amount to professional misconduct.

If you decide to use a social media tool for classroom/professional use then it is recommended that you create a completely separate online space for this purpose. This online space should be treated with the same professionalism as is displayed at school. All correspondence and content that is uploaded must have a clear educational context/purpose.

Within a school, classroom and/or professional environment, expected behaviours are outlined and communicated to students and their families within policies such as a Code of Conduct or an Acceptable Use Agreement. These include appropriate language and behaviours and the consequences for behaving inappropriately. It is essential that these same rules are established and understood for the online classroom/professional space.

In addition, it is important to consider whether you require the consent of others ( i.e. parents / guardians of the students and/or management) before registering/using a social media tool.

3. Obtain the appropriate permissions (if necessary)

Establishing a social media tool for an educational purpose may require the consent of your manager/principal. You should consult with the Department / school-based policies and your manager/principal for further information.

In addition, you should seek the consent of parents/guardians for students to participate and register to use social media tools. 

You will be required to gain parent / guardian consent to upload information, images and videos of the students. This is very important as a failure to obtain this consent may amount to a breach of privacy.

For more information, see: Consent Forms and Templates

4. Consider the privacy implications

a. Determine whether you must issue a privacy notice

b. Consider the privacy notices of the social media

c. Set your privacy settings

Most social media tools have privacy and filtering controls. This allows content to be public or restricted. These controls allow you to restrict who can and cannot view personal information, images and comments that are posted by you or others on to your online space. Be familiar with the site’s privacy options and consider how you can use these controls to protect your online identity. Most social media tools provide varying levels of privacy; the following are general examples:

Maximum privacy restrictions can hide your profile within a search function. This means that you will need to invite people to join your profile. If other social media users attempt to search for your profile it will not be listed in the search results. All personal information, images and comments will only be seen by people that you have granted access.

Custom privacy restrictions can enable you to restrict individual elements of your profile’s content. For example, you may choose to restrict a selected person’s access to some of your profile’s content, such as images.

Public/no privacy restrictions will enable all users of the social media tool to access all of your profile’s content.

*Some social media sites allow search engines such as Google access to unrestricted profiles; even if the viewer is not a member of the social media site.

**Remember privacy options and settings are extremely useful to protect your online identity and professional reputation but they are not fool proof. These settings can be changed by the owners of the tool who do not always have an obligation to inform their users. The best way to maintain your professional image is to manage your profile professionally and regularly check for updates to Terms and Conditions that may occur. When using social media tools it is prudent to err on the side of caution.

For more information, see: Public Administration Act 2004 in the context of Social Media

5. Read the Terms and Conditions

Many social media tools have policies that explain the terms and conditions that apply when using the tool. It is important to be aware of the terms and conditions for each specific social media tool.

DEECD Recommends: DEECD Employees in schools do not allow students under 13 years of age to register for a social media tool where the terms and conditions require them to be 13 years or older.

For more information, see: Inappropriate Use Case Studies: Passwords and Site Terms and Conditions

6. Other considerations when online

a) Uploading Information, Images and Video Content

  • Consider the content you upload or view and whether it reflects your professional image and how you wish to be perceived by others.
  • Consider whether the content is detrimental to your standing in the community.
  • Consider whether your friends or others can upload content that may adversely affect your reputation
  • Consider whether your personal information could potentially be copied and shared with a wider audience.
  • Consider whether you need specific permission to upload the content. Content may have copyright protection or may require specific permission before it can be uploaded. For example, before uploading images and videos of student on an online space, specific permission should be sought from the student or their parents / guardians.

b) Subscribing to Groups

Social media tools often encourage people to set up or subscribe to groups. These groups are an effective means of meeting people with common interests on professional and/or personal topics. They assist to share ideas and resources as well as reflect on issues of interest or concern. When setting up or subscribing to groups be sure to keep in mind your professional status and how these groups may or may not uphold your professional image.

c) Sharing and Viewing Content

The digital world is full of books, newspaper articles, research reports and commentaries, as well as illustrations, presentations, video and music. Social media tools allow users to access, read and/or view these items. It is important to note the history of your reading and viewing activity may be highlighted and shared on your profile. Consider how you could protect your professional image by using the privacy and filtering options that are available within the particular social media tool that you are using.

For more information, see: