Social Media

Social Media

Thursday, 14 September 2017  | Mic - ICT Coordinator
Social media is such a large part of today’s culture and society. Our school-age children, known as Generation Z (born between 1995-2009) are said to be the most connected generation yet, in the sense that they have ready access to tools to connect online. And unlike most of their parents, they live in a world where they have never known anything else. MECS has created a new Social Media policy to reflect the significant role that social media has on us and our children.

Social media can be of real benefit in the way we can easily communicate with those who are both near and far away, make connections, and learn from others.

There is also another side to it: stranger danger, addictive behaviours, bullying, and social exclusion. People can feel compelled to participate, even if this is not what they really want, just so they feel included.

When you think of social media, you may think of services such as Facebook or Instagram. We have taken a broader perspective to include any online service that allows people to communicate socially online. This could also include things like email and blogging - the list is huge.

So how do we as Christian parents and teachers manage this and help our kids learn to do this wisely too?

MECS felt the need to develop a new policy around Social Media use to reflect the significant presence of social media. A group of staff were asked to form a working party to think about and develop a policy. A lot of time was spent researching what other schools had done in this area and unpacking what it means for us at MECS from a biblical perspective. We did not want it to be reactive, restrictive and fearful, but proactive, protective and responsible; something that gave clear guidelines and boundaries. We wanted a policy that covered our needs as a community of staff, students and parents. After much thought, discussion and work, it was presented to the Executive and Leadership team for comment and review.

Having a policy is great but how do we ensure that everyone knows about it and understands what is expected of them?

The policy and a summary document were presented to staff and they have had an opportunity to discuss the policy and have input. There are fine lines between public and personal life in the world of social media. We can easily lower our guard, especially when it is so easy to respond to something online, where the other party is not physically present. Our words can also be misunderstood or misrepresented.

MECS teachers only use social media in places and ways where it is believed necessary and educationally beneficial. We have other systems in place, such as our Secondary online learning platform (or LMS) ‘Schoolbox’, which enables all students to participate in an online space where we can engage with students of any age, and comply with legal requirements to protect information privacy.

Students also need to understand what is required of them. The plan is to workshop the policy with a group of students in the coming months to simplify the policy-speak into a student-friendly summary which will then be circulated to the students and discussed with their teachers.

Hopefully this editorial will help you to understand the work and thinking behind this new policy, as you are also needed to partner with us in this, not just guiding your children in their own use but considering your own actions. We need to model to them good relationships – physical as well as online, critique our own use of social media, and become aware of the way it subtly shapes us.

Here are some key points from the policy that relate to you as the MECS community:

* School community members should be conscious at all times that:
    - their social media activity reflects upon themselves,
      their families and the school;
    - all social media activity contributes to their ‘digital
    - inappropriate use of social media can have long-term
      adverse implications for themselves and others.

* We ask you though to be careful with student photos, especially those containing children other than your own. Please don’t name or tag students, and think carefully before reposting. It is important that you, as a parent, understand the legal rules for social media services such as minimum age requirements and the privacy policies of the particular service you are using.

* The Bible has a lot to say about the power of our words. What we say (and write) reflects the state of our heart. Ephesians 4:29 reminds us to use our words to build each other up so that we can give grace to those who receive them.

We encourage you to educate yourself! As parents we can no longer put our heads in the sand and say ‘I don’t understand it’, or ‘My kids know more than me’. While the latter may be true, we are still the responsible adults in their lives and need to be able to guide and shape them in this important area.

Here are a few ways you can do this. MECS held a parent night last term about kids and technology – look out for a potential re-run in Term 4 and make an effort to attend these kind of events. Pick up a CyberSmart booklet from the office. Check out sites such as iParent (the link is below) and sign up for their regular emails to keep informed. Talk to your peers and friends you trust about how they grapple with these issues – it’s always better when we do things in community together.

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