"We need a set of guidelines for how schools use social media."

At a time when schools and parents are doing their best to educate children on the potential consequences of posting photos on social media, it seems that neither schools nor parents are leading by example. There has been a lot of focus recently on “sharenting”, and what parents are doing wrong when it comes to posting about their children on social media, but it seems schools are getting in on the action too, and the rules are less clear.

I recall that when I was at school my parents would sign a form giving the school permission to publish my photograph in the school newsletter, which back then was a hard copy sent home weekly with the eldest child in the family. Later, the newsletters moved to being published online where they are accessible to anyone.

Now that I have my own children in school, it has moved beyond online newsletters to school Facebook pages, and even Instagram accounts, and I’m not certain this was made clear on the photo release form I signed upon enrollment. Beyond the official school Facebook page, there is an unofficial group made by parents for parents, where members will post photos from school and events for everyone to see, and there are also several Instagram accounts (which are private, and I cannot see). Post continues after video.

I post a lot of photos of my children online, and I’m comfortable with that, having control of which photos are shared. I am however uncomfortable with the sharing of unapproved photos – especially in school uniform and at school – and what cements that discomfort is that my daughter has expressed that she doesn’t like it either. Even if it’s a closed group and only parents are added, there is nothing to stop anybody creating fake accounts in parents’ names, and I don’t know nor do I trust every single parent in the school.

I know this is becoming an issue in many schools, and it’s largely because this is the first generation of schoolchildren, teachers, and parents growing up navigating a social media world. Schools are jumping on the bandwagon and using social media as a way of keeping parents informed and also marketing their school to prospective families, but it’s unchartered territory and there are no clear cut rules to follow.

I post a lot of photos of my children online, and I’m comfortable with that, having control of which photos are shared. Photo supplied.

I believe that now is the time for schools and education departments to develop a set of guidelines to govern the use of social media, and even a code of conduct for parents regarding unofficial school social media accounts to ensure no one’s privacy or children’s safety is compromised.

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