6 Benefits of Using a Safe, Moderated Platform for School Communications
It’s easy to see why Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms have transformed how we communicate. With a few simple clicks, we can push out updates to a host of followers simultaneously, share, receive and discuss information and keep in touch with friends and colleagues. Having a single feed makes it easy to find information on one page, and built-in tools for liking and sharing content increase user engagement.
It’s not surprising, then, that a large majority of K–12 schools and districts now have Facebook and Twitter pages that they use to post information and engage with parents. But using a public social network like Facebook or Twitter to communicate with parents brings certain risks as well.
For instance, posting photos or other information about students on a public network could raise privacy concerns. Although school systems generally ask parents to sign a waiver granting permission to use their child’s image in school or district communications, there is always the chance that a photo identifying a student whose parents have denied permission will be posted by mistake—and some parents might not fully understand the implications when they sign such a waiver in the first place.
There’s also the question of what happens to personal information that students or teachers share online. For example, the popular video-sharing app TikTok recently agreed to pay a record $5.7 million to settle allegations that it illegally collected information such as names, email addresses, and their location from children under the age of 13.
This is not an isolated practice. Earlier this year, TechCrunch revealed that, since 2016, Facebook had been paying users as young as 13 up to $20 per month plus referral fees to install the “Facebook Research” app, a VPN that allowed the company to capture a user’s phone and web activity.
Another risk that is becoming more problematic is the lack of control that K–12 leaders have over public comments left on their social media posts. In an article published last year (“The Internet Trolls Have Won. Sorry, There’s Not Much You Can Do”), New York Times columnist Brian X. Chen describes how online comments have become more toxic, with bullying, harassment, and the spread of misinformation leading to real-world consequences.
“When it comes to online comments and discourse and what you can do to limit their toxicity, you only have a certain amount of power,” Chen writes. “The real leverage lies with the tech companies.”
When school systems use public social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to communicate with parents and other stakeholders, they lose the ability to control these communications—which invariably creates problems that must be dealt with by teachers, principals, and administrators.
A closed and moderated social network, designed from the ground up to address the communication needs of schools and their stakeholders, solves these challenges. Such a platform combines the best of what Facebook and Twitter have to offer with administrator controls to ensure a safe, collaborative social environment for parents and educators.
The following are six key advantages to using a closed and moderated social network for school communications:
- Teachers, administrators and parents can control who sees information posted about students and their accomplishments. In a closed network, participation is by invitation only, and access is role-based, so users can be assured that strangers aren’t seeing photos, videos, or other information about students. What’s more, parents have the ability to set privacy options for their child’s attributes, such as date of birth or activities. This allows parents to control what type of information is shared with other members of the online community.
- Teachers and administrators have control over group communications. For example, they can facilitate communication among smaller groups, such as a single class or a certain subgroup of parents, while ensuring that this information is not shared with the entire community. They can also control whether parents can connect with each other in a given group, allowing inter-parent communication in some cases and blocking it in others.
- Teachers and administrators can control whether to allow comments or public discussions on any given post. They can moderate these comments and “mute” certain community members (block them from commenting) if they violate the district’s rules for safe and respectful communication.
- Teachers and administrators can control whether their posts are reposted on public social media tools, such as Facebook pages. This can be done on a case-by-case basis. When it’s appropriate to share a post more broadly with the entire social media community, educators have an easy and time-saving way to do this with a single click.
- Teachers and administrators can send private messages to parents and vice versa. This facilitates secure, one-on-one communication between parents and school employees.
- Teachers, administrators, and parents have access to additional tools for fostering home-school connections and creating a sense of community, such as sign-up sheets for scheduling parent-teacher conferences and volunteering in school-sponsored activities.
More than three decades of research demonstrates that parent engagement is the number one factor in a child’s academic achievement with an impact of 2.4 grade points on a 4.0 GPA scale, making it a virtual ON/OFF switch for a child’s achievement. There is enormous value in having a moderated social media network that is custom-designed to meet the needs of school and classroom communications.
A closed, moderated network puts teachers and administrators fully in control of home-school communication—combining the best elements of public social media platforms with features intended to create a safe, collaborative environment for engaging with parents and involving them more deeply in their children’s education.
Chaks Appalabattula is the founder of Bloomz, a free app voted the 2018 Best App for Teacher/School-Parent Communication for two years in a row by Tech Edvocate andused by more than 3 million parents and teachers to strengthen the home-school connection.
Danielle McColl has been a teacher for 13 years, teaching general subjects in 1st through 5th grade. She is a gifted and talented endorsed, nationally board-certified teacher who currently focuses on science and ELA in 5th grade.