As we have already covered in this series, social media is an excellent way to promote your early years setting, but it’s vital to make sure you’re being responsible with what you, and other employees, are posting.
Social media is a great way to build relationships between EY settings and families, employers and employees and between team members. It’s a quick, easy way to share information, jokes and personal opinions, but the pitfalls of a misjudged post can have a huge effect on a company. You may often see a disclaimer in social profile bios, something like "opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer" but, the truth is, you will always be representing your employer to some extent.
To use an extreme example, if you go on a hostile and aggressive political rant on Twitter, and insult others, while it may be made clear that these are not the opinions of your organisation, it is still apparent that your organisation is happy to employ aggressive and socially inappropriate individuals. Needless to say, this is not great for your early years setting’s image.
Important things to remember:
- Nothing really goes away on the internet. The aforementioned racist rant may be years in the past; years before employment at their current workplace began. In fact, the employee’s views may even have changed since then, but it’s surprisingly easy for people to dredge-up the past and produce old posts when needed.
- Be careful of the “disinhibition effect”. People feel much more comfortable airing views and opinions online than they would in real life. The perceived anonymity of posting from behind a computer/phone screen makes people much bolder in expressing opinions they would otherwise hold back on.
- The potential reach for a post is almost infinite. You may post things purely for your small band of followers who don’t actually share to their profiles but, with “likes” now showing up in people’s feeds, it’s incredibly easy for far more people to actually see your post than originally intended.
- It is so easy to misconstrue the tone or intent of social media posts. What sounds like an offhand quip or an in-joke with friends to you could actually come across as flippant, distasteful or even downright offensive to others.
Posts About Work Issues
We’ve all had a bad day at work and felt the need to vent and, sometimes, a quick Twitter post is all you need to alleviate some of that tension. However, be careful with what details you share. For example, saying you’ve been run off your feet because the children were particularly energetic today is fine; it’s to be expected in the life of an EY practitioner. However, criticising a colleague or the parents of a child, no matter how much you attempt to keep the individual’s identity a secret, is never going to end well. If that particular colleague or family saw the post they’d know exactly who you were talking about, and could lodge a serious complaint.
Posts of a Suggestive Nature
Social media has a plethora of more adult-themed content and, while we’re fairly sure you know not to share blatantly inappropriate content to your profile, it’s important to remember that your likes and followers are just as public as your actual posts. You may not interact with any posts from adult-themed accounts, but if you actively follow them, it won’t look great on the account of an early years practitioner, representing their EY setting. If you feel the need, many people opt for starting a private Twitter or Instagram account, which can only be followed by people you accept, and keeps your activity hidden from anyone outside your follower list.
Posts About Your Social Life
Having a social life outside work is nothing to be ashamed of, but be careful about what parts you share online. For example, going to work after being out partying until 4am may not affect your working performance, particularly when you’re younger, but it will affect the opinions of colleagues, managers and families of children under your supervision. Be discerning with what you share about your personal life to ensure you don’t negatively affect your professional image.
What to Do as an Employer
If you are concerned about your employees’ social media antics, or just want to put steps in place to make sure no mishaps occur, it might be time to implement a Social Media Policy. This informs your employees know what is and isn’t appropriate to post online and will help your EY setting avoid any legal issues, should they occur. Additionally, a social media policy doesn’t need to be all about making sure your team doesn’t make an online mistake – it can also encourage them to be more active on social media. With clear guidelines of what they can or cannot post, employees should feel freer to post about their life, and even their workplace!
It should be noted that, while a clear policy will help with any disciplinary action that may need to be taken if an employee is posting content that may not necessarily display the values of the organisation, employees also have their right to privacy. Article 8 of the Human Rights Act (1998) gives employees the ‘right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence’ meaning that, while employees can be held accountable for social media posts that could damage the reputation of their workplace, employers also need to use their discretion about how far they dig into their employees’ life outside work. For more information, here’s an article from Taylor & Emmett LLP on Social Media and the Right to Privacy. Make sure your social media policy is clear and up-to-date so, if you need to take disciplinary action about an employee’s post, it can be proved they were aware of the rules and have caused harm to the organisation.
Elements to include in your social media policy:
- Employee access – what sites are/are not restricted while at work?
- Use of your organisation’s accounts – who is allowed to maintain your EY setting’s social media profiles?
- Conduct and enforcement – enforcing responsible, respectful and professional posts on both employees’ and your organisation’s social accounts.
- Prohibited behaviour – offensive images or remarks, plagiarised content, discrimination, etc..
- Security – ensuring only authorised individuals have access to official accounts.
- Engagement – how should the organisation’s accounts interact with people online?
Social media can do wonders for your Early Years setting’s brand, promotion and relationship with the community, but make sure you use it right so it stays a blessing and doesn’t become a curse.