The Brandon School Division is crafting a new social media policy that school board chair Mark Sefton hopes to have ready in time for the next school year.
“As you can imagine, social media covers a lot of territory,” Sefton said. “We would have loved to have this in place in September, but there’s just too many components to it and it’s a pretty complex piece of policy to put out.”
Sefton added that research is currently being done in regards to what types of policies other public sector organizations follow and what the legal community is suggesting when it comes to social media.
“We’re trying to plug the holes before we roll it out,” Sefton said.
“It’s very difficult to be proactive when it comes to media or technology because who among us knows what’s coming next.”
Although the BSD currently blocks the use of Facebook on school computers and has policies in place when it comes to bullying, student conduct, harassment and the appropriate use of technology, implementing a policy specific to social media conduct for students is still needed, Sefton said.
“When people post anonymously, regardless of the age of the poster, they tend to post as if they are invisible and invincible,” he said. “Adults do that, so why are we surprised when kids do?”
But Sefton said the policy implementation has nothing to do with a recent incident that involved the arrest of a 12-year-old who was charged with two counts of uttering threats online via social media.
“This latest incident really has nothing to do with the policy it was in the works anyway.”
Brandon University is also recognizing the role social media plays in the lives of their students and is looking at ways of putting voluntary guidelines in place when it comes to the way students portray themselves online.
“The challenge at university level is protecting their rights to free speech, academic freedom and individual human rights,” BU spokesman Glen Kirby said.
“Each of those is incredibly important and each of those must be taken into account before we adopt any guidelines.”
Kirby added that in 2010, staff began sharing voluntary guidelines regarding social media use with student athletes.
“More than just a regular student, a student athlete has a public image so it’s important for them to be aware of how their actions via social media can be communicated to a larger community,” Kirby said.
BU is currently in the early stages of creating campus-wide social media guidelines, which will offer standards of use and best practices to students.
The guidelines will voluntary, and not enforced.
“We feel a responsibility to use emerging technology in positive ways,” Kirby said. “This is all a part of a larger package of initiatives that are now in the draft stages and we anticipate will be ready by summer.”
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 30, 2013