Social Media: To block or not to block, that is the question.
In past posts I've mentioned how I enjoy the parts of my job where I get to learn how my clients do their jobs.
Two areas of expertise that I run into often in my job are education psychology and social networking, and this is increasingly becoming the case as I journey down the path to becoming an expert in my chosen field. These are usually not two areas of expertise that reside in one person, so I have taken what I have learned from each field expert and tried to apply them to provide relevant talking points for my customers.
One such topic is the blocking of Social Media and where, and even if, such sites should be blocked at all. In fact, today's blog follows on a post last week from Bradley Chambers, who is Director of Information Technology for Brainerd Baptist Schools and shares my point of view. (To check out Bradley's blog, read Schools: Don't simply block Social Media on campus Wi-Fi .)
Should your school block Facebook?
Let's pick on a specific Social Media site for today, Facebook. I enjoy asking my prospects and customers if they are blocking Facebook at their Internet firewall. Usually I get a rather surprised "yes" while they figure out if I have suddenly been struck dumb for asking such an obvious question.
I get even odder looks when I tell them that I disagree with that policy and that I have three distinct points to backup my opinion.
It's obvious that if you block Facebook at your Internet firewall, then no one on your campus will have access to it, so I lead into the first point asking: "What are you doing on your campus to protect these children from bomb threats and suicide threats?"
Gone are the days of calling in a fire drill or bomb threat to avoid a test or as a prank. Today kids place threats of this type on Social Media sites like Facebook, so it makes sense that your administrators need to be monitoring these channels for such threats.
Your counselors also need to be monitoring the social media posting of your troubled kids as they often ask for help before they physically harm themselves, and those queries are increasingly showing up on Facebook and other Social Media sites.
So I believe that you should provide access to Social Media sites to your counselors and administrators to protect the children at your school.
Using Social Media to market your school
My second point is, "What are you doing to market your school?"
Whether you are a public school or private school there should be an effort to show off what your school is doing and to actively and positively market your school's end product, educated students.
Why? Well, if you are a private school it's obvious: You need to find the source of next year’s tuition. If you are a public school, then know that the private schools are marketing against you, so you better market against them.
How do you market your school? Today this type of marketing and advertising happens on Facebook and other social mediums.
Circumventing school Wi-Fi
My final point is rather fatalistic, but still very true. If you block Facebook on your Internet link your students and teachers are going to find a different Internet link that allows it. This is often going to be their cell phone or MiFi.
Wouldn’t it be better to provide a limited level of access that you can control and monitor for abuse rather than to stick your head in the sand and deny it outright? This only forces your users to get that access elsewhere, where you cannot control or monitor it at all.
Do you agree? Disagree? Please feel free to weigh in with your opinion in comments or on Twitter.