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08 Mar 2017

Social Media: Blocked or Un-blocked?

I find myself having constant discussions with clients regarding the restriction levels of social media within schools and in the end ask the same question - is it blocked or allowed?

Levels of restrictions vary across secondary and FE schools in particular, with some FE’s fully allowing their students access to social media, whilst the majority of secondary’s take more of a lock down approach, with slight leniency towards allowing YouTube for students.

In every meeting I try to encourage schools to think about social media in a different light and not just about the risks associated with it. If we don’t allow students to access social media in a secure environment and in a controlled manner what will they do?

It’s quite simple, they will revert to their 4G network on their own devices and access the web there, without their activity being appropriately monitored.

Promoting digital citizenship

In this digital age students are attached to some form of device for the majority of the day, whether that be on their own personal devices or even school devices, thus making the connection and their presence on social media a much easier task.

Schools need to encourage their students to make the correct decisions when online, rather than taking the blanket approach of “If it doesn’t happen on our network, it isn’t our problem”.

If we don’t educate students on how to use social media safely and correctly, through naivety they could be potentially putting themselves and even others at risk without even realising.

The legal age for children to set up an account across the majority of all social media platforms is 13, however from my own experience of teaching in a secondary school, you find most year 7 and 8 students who are aged between 11-13 already have accounts such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

What we can provide

Here at Smoothwall, we take a varied and layered approach to social media depending on the requirements of the educational establishment.

Due to our educational focus we have certain features that enable you to promote the correct behaviour in a number of ways. Firstly, we can apply filter settings which make social media platforms read-only.

This means students can for instance look at a school Twitter feed or Facebook page, yet have no option to comment on posts or add their own opinions.

Most schools welcome this approach as a way to help deter cyberbullying, usually applying the feature to Twitter first to analyse its success, and then eventually applying it to Facebook.

Once you’ve gained control there are many options and different levels of filtering available.

Depending on the school’s requirements, restrictions can be applied and lifted at any given time, from varied locations, allowing students to only access the content you want them to see.

If you would like students to access the content from desktop devices and not on the BYOD network, we can put that policy in place too.

Our reporting feature enables schools to also analyse the amount of time their students spend on social media platforms, with our granular filtering policies giving you the ability to limit them to a quota.

Allocating a specific time period to which students are allowed access to social media puts the power in their hands and lets them decide when is best to utilise that time.

For example, if you allocate 20 minutes per student, per day, they may decide to use this during lunchtime as opposed to during lesson time when they fear they may get caught out and potentially lose the rest of their allocation.

This method not only demonstrates a fair policy, but also helps to prevent valuable lesson time being wasted.

Let's Summarise

As we all know social media can pose massive risks to not only students but staff as well, with careless activity often being met with met devastating consequences.

It’s no shock that stories have emerged where teachers have lost their jobs because of their actions online. During my PGCE I witnessed two students being asked to leave the course, due to posting inappropriate content on Facebook.

Students have been groomed, radicalised and cyber bullied but where there is risk there is also reward.

Social media allows everyone to create lasting relationships with people all around the world, sharing passions, knowledge and ideas.

Students are going to access social media regardless, which is why we need to encourage it to happen in a controlled environment, where the correct levels of monitoring and protection are provided.

Ask yourself, do you want your staff and students connected to your network where we can actively filter and monitor their activity? Or do you want them using 4G where you risk having no idea what they are accessing?  

What are your thoughts? Let me know by leaving your comments.

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