The school social media dilemma

Year: 2021

Author: Kidson, Paul

Type of paper: Individual Paper

Contemporary schools have embraced social media communication platforms as a means to connect with parents, students and the broader community. Through this process schools share vast amounts of data in the form of digital images, videos, location, organisational information and records of students’ and teachers’ daily school practice. The convenience of connection with immediate school communities and the ability to build a positive school profile for a broader audience are, no doubt, powerful motivators in the uptake of social media platforms by school leaders (Cox & Mcleod, 2014). Yet the utilisation of such platforms in school contexts raises important questions about the digital rights of students. For example, is it ethical to make children’s data available on social media platforms when they are too young to hold their own accounts? How can we enable and protect children’s privacy when school social media practices share data, on behalf of children, in online networks that capture, use, merge and reuse and profit from their data in the present and future? Significantly, such questions are seemingly overlooked in the fast uptake of social media in schools. While research has explored school leader’s uptake of social media platforms documenting the benefits and challenges (Bowman, Giles, Orange & Wiles. 2018). There is a paucity of research that employs a critical lens to engage with the social, cultural, ethical, moral issues associated with social media communication on school communities. We draw on a children’s digital rights frame, along with data from two small qualitative case studies, to problematise this everyday school practice. Our preliminary analysis shows that principals and parents reflect on school social media communications differently. School principals identified issues associated with visible outward flows of data to manage privacy and school reputation while parent’s reflections highlight new power dynamics between school and home, created by the presence of platform. Both stakeholder groups described limitations on their understanding of the use and reuse of children’s data by social media platforms. We share suggestions for reimagining more considered and inclusive school social media practices that better protect the rights of children.