Best practice guidelines for using social media

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  Published on Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Best practice guidelines for using social media

Library Home  >  Leadership & Service Management
  Published on Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Social media platforms are a very effective and simple way to share photos, updates and events in your early childhood service. They can help to boost engagement within your established parent community as well as extend your market reach with the potential of bringing in new business.

However, as all early childhood professionals would be aware, there are some inherent risks involved in posting pictures and videos of children online and it's important to have a clear understanding of those risks, and the steps you can take to reduce the possibility of any harm arising from your posts, before you start publicly posting pictures of the children in your service.

Social Media Policy

If you want to use social media to share photos and videos, it's advisable to develop and implement a Social Media Policy. According to the Australian Government's Office of the eSafety Commissioner, this policy should:

  • define and set out how your organisation will approach and manage social media
  • describe what constitutes acceptable and non-acceptable use of social media
  • explain the unacceptability of cyberbullying/harassment and the steps the organisation will take in response to incidents
  • outline procedures for monitoring social media accounts
  • describe the use of organisation logos/intellectual property or reference to a brand
  • outline how the organisation trains staff in social media
  • explain the consequences of non-compliance
  • describe how the organisation will manage the sharing of photos and videos of children
  • include a mechanism to acknowledge and accept the terms of the policy.

On enrolling families in your service it's good practice to advise families about your social media policy and seek written parental consent for photos and videos to be published. Early childhood services must have written consent before they can publish photos/video of children on any media including social media platforms, websites or newsletters.

According to the eSafety Commissioner it is good practice to ensure you provide as much information on the possible use of the images to enable parents to have a clear understanding of what they are consenting to.

For example, you could include a description detailing how the image will be used including future use if that is proposed. You may prefer to give parents the option of only agreeing to the use an image for a particular purpose, with future use needing separate approval. You could do this by including in your consent forms a check box that asks for specific permissions for an event or specific publication and another check box for broader use of images.

It may be helpful to include a paragraph on the consent form that releases you from responsibility once approval has been given, words to the effect of: "any image that is published online can be copied and redistributed without the knowledge of the person that uploaded it. Once published, we may not be able to retrieve or delete images if consent is withdrawn after publishing."

Remember to refer back to these consent forms every time you use saved images to ensure you are only using images with appropriate approvals. If you are at all concerned consider only publishing images of children from behind so they can't be identified.

It's also important to clearly explain whether your service permits parents/carers to record or photograph any events where other children may be included in the recording.

Nominate a social media moderator

To ensure you maintain a consistent voice on your social media platforms it can be helpful to appoint and train a social media moderator, who maintains overall responsibility for updating and monitoring your service's social media feeds. The moderator's role should be incorporated into the social media policy and updated when necessary.

Moderating social media feeds can be time consuming, depending on how often a service publishes updates, and also requires technical know-how, so when appointing a moderator for your service be sure to take this into consideration. The eSafety Commissioner suggests a moderator should:

  • be aware of privacy settings on social media services
  • understand the websites/apps that they are using when uploading photos and videos
  • proactively monitor the social media page
  • remove potentially defamatory material as soon as possible.

When posting pictures of young children on your website or social media feeds remember to avoid images that:

  • contain personal details such as full name, contact details, uniforms or location
  • depict children who are upset or distressed
  • may be indecent or demeaning
  • harm someone's reputation or cause embarrassment.

For more information on protecting the safety and privacy of children online visit the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Tuesday, 28 January 2020