Many schools already have set up Facebook pages but there are thousands that haven’t. How should a school deal with pressure from parents who wish to set up a Facebook page?
In my opinion, if there is demand from parents to have a school Facebook Page, I would embrace it. Not only would I embrace it, I would insist that the school would set one up as soon as possible before anyone else has the bright idea of doing so. There are several reasons for this.
- At least 50% of your parents already use Facebook and it is the place they look at information about your schools. Don’t kid yourself that they log into your school web site.
- Facebook allows parents to interact with the school on other levels. Sometimes, a simple “like” shows you that they appreciate what you’re doing in your school. A nice comment can make one’s day too.
- A school-owned Facebook Page gives the school control over what is put up online and what isn’t. Our school has strict rules about what is allowed and what isn’t.
The potential problems that a Facebook Page bring are the potential for cyberbullying, nasty comments and perhaps, unsolicited advertising. For me this is by far the most important reason why a school must control their Facebook Page. Whether one likes it or not, if the school doesn’t, it is likely one will be created. (Another issue is extra workload, but that might be nitpicking!)
While a Board of Management might be able to ask for the group to take down the page, at best it might cause bad feeling and, worst, it will just drive the page underground into closed Facebook groups, which are only going to be a hotbed for bad behaviour and rumour spreading.
If you do not take control and set up a school Facebook Page, you will have no control over what happens within it. You need to ensure you are the administrator of the page. This allows you to set all the boundaries available to you from Facebook. For example, you might not wish for comments to go up (though I don’t think this is a good idea) or you might want to add teachers as editors. You’ll also probably want to give your Parents’ Group and Board of Management some for of role in the group too. As Facebook evolves, roles and powers are introduced and taken away. You want to be the one in control of what happens to the page always.
How do you ensure good behaviour on a Facebook Page? For me, this is all about ground rules. I have a mantra that I use when it comes to social media use:
I completely trust you until you cannot be trusted and then you are never ever trusted again.
In other words, as long as a user keeps the rules, there should be no issue. However, if the rule is broken, they are banned forever. There is no way back.
This preventative measure has paid off for us. If a parent wants to have a big rant at the school, then it will be the last rant they ever have and the last time they ever get to access the page. The rant is deleted and their account is blocked. In the time we’ve had a Facebook page (since 2008) we have had one nasty comment. That person, despite her kids being well gone from the school, is still on our banned list and will never ever be allowed access to the page again.
If someone writes something illegal or libelous, it is easy to screengrab it and bring it to garda attention. However, most adults are savvy enough to know that this would be a really stupid thing to do and I’ve never heard of it happening.
What are our ground rules? We don’t allow negative comments, inappropriate content or advertising. We also don’t allow people ‘tag’ their children. We also have the right to delete any comments that we wish for any reason: for example, a long conversation on a post might happen, which may not be particularly relevant. Each school will have their own set of rules but we like to keep ours very simple as it makes administration really simple.
If your school hasn’t set up a Facebook Page, I’d heartily recommend it. It has increased interaction with parents in a very positive way and is another channel to improve communication. Some parents even use Facebook to send us messages and we even have received a couple of enrollments through it! Parents often say how lovely it is to be able to see what their child is doing in school and Facebook is a medium they use anyway so when it appears in their timeline, it’s like a little present.