How To Deal With Student Privacy Issues On Social Media

student-photo-privacyEvery time I speak about using social media for schools I’m always asked about guidelines or best practices for posting student pictures online.

It’s a very important question and one that can be answered in a number of different ways depending upon your school community – here’s how we deal with student privacy at Sewickley Academy.

Parental Permission

We get parent’s permission to use their child’s image in our marketing materials. Every year there are a few families that do not give us their permission and these children are placed on a “Do Not Photo” List. We, of course, take this list very seriously and I keep a copy of it near my computer.

Best Practices

When we think of best practices with posting photos or videos we like to differentiate between content that we publish or content that we re-publish

Content We Publish

When I refer to content that we publish I mean anything (photos, videos, links to our news stories) that we create and post to social media. In this case I also take into consideration which division the child is in: Lower School, Middle School, or Senior School.

For Lower and Middle School students we do not publish, or personally identify, the names of children in photos or videos. When applicable, we might identify the group represented, e.g. Grade 4 Dance Class. An example is a photo from our Grade 5 Graduation on Facebook.

For Senior School students we typically follow the same rules as above however in some cases we will identify the students by their first name only. An example is our Class of 2012 College Choices Pinterest Board.

Content We Re-publish

When I refer to content that we re-publish I mean anything that was originally published by someone else like an article in a newspaper referencing one of our students. Typically the newspaper will print a student’s first and last name but even so, when we re-publish that content we only identify the student by first name. An example would be this newspaper article we re-published on Google+, “Academy senior to represent state at Girls Nation.”

Field Trips

Field trips have always been a wonderful part of the school experience and social media allows the school community to experience the trip in near real-time.

As a school we have made the decision to not chronicle field trips in real time. We only publicize an event after the specific day has happened and never publish information about a trips agenda prior to the event. A good example is our global studies blog which is currently chronicling a group of senior school students and their trip to England. The students and faculty only write about events that occurred in the past.

Final Thoughts

Student privacy is a very important issue and one that can be dealt with in numerous different ways. The most important thing is for a school to make decisions about how they want to deal with these issues and be consistent in their handling of student privacy.

For further reading please check out the Social Media Policy at Sewickley Academy which helps to clarify how we expect our school community to participate in social media as well handle student privacy.

 Thank you to Patrick McGettigan, CITYterm Director of Enrollment at The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, NY for the idea for this blog post.


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