Everyone is doing it managing social media in the early childhood ecosystem


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Everyone is Doing It! Managing social media in the early childhood ecosystem
Reprinted with permission from Child Care Information Exchange, Sept/October 2011.
Copyright © Exchange Press, Inc. Reprinted with permission from Exchange magazine. All rights reserved. Visit us at www.ChildCareExchange.com or call (800) 221-2864.

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Everyone is doing it managing social media in the early childhood ecosystem

  1. 1. 12 SOCIAL MEDIA EXCHANGE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 201 1 Everyone is Doing It! Managing social media in the early childhood ecosystem by Fran Simon Everyone’s doing it: Tweeting, ‘friend- n How can managers and leaders help ing,’ blogging, linking, texting, and staff members use social media with otherwise zipping around all over the purpose and balance computer time social media landscape. Social media with other practical responsibilities? has become more than just a pastime. It is officially now another important com- As social media use becomes more munication medium early childhood prevalent in early childhood, we are all educators use to establish and enhance searching for balance and thinking about meaningful relationships with parents, how to establish boundaries. It’s time to colleagues, staff members, policymak- begin planning dynamic and responsive ers, and funders. We’re also asking social media policies that reflect the cul- some very big questions: ture of our organizations within the con- text of best practice and ethical conduct. n What does all of this social media activity mean for early childhood This article frames the factors to con- education? sider as you develop policies and proce- n How can the adult members of the dures for your setting. Since social early childhood ecosystem use social media platforms change every day, this media to achieve their goals and still piece will suggest processes for social ensure the privacy, integrity, and media policy development and offer an safety of children and families? outline of important elements to con- sider, rather than providing specific instructions on how to use social media. Fran Simon has been a professional Early Childhood educator and a passionate tech- This piece also references the NAEYC nologist since 1981. Early in her career as a Code of Ethical Conduct and Statement of multi-site child care administrator, she learned that her ability to use technology to accomplish Commitment and other common stan- her goals was one of the most powerful skills dards of best practice to govern our in her administrative toolkit, so she set out to learn more and do explorations. more to connect early childhood educators to technology. Fran used those skills in her positions at Teaching Strategies, Inc., the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agen- cies (NACCRRA), and as Vice President of the Technology and Social Media in ECE Young Children Interest Forum of NAEYC. A frequent presenter at national conferences, Fran is now the Chief Engagement Officer of Engagement Strategies, LLC, and the founder of Early Childhood In early childhood we are just beginning Investigations Webinars, an ongoing series of free webinars for early education professionals. to wrangle the big questions about how Reprinted with permission from Exchange magazine. Visit us at www.ChildCareExchange.com or call (800) 221-2864. Multiple use copy agreement available for educators by request.
  2. 2. SOCIAL MEDIA 13 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 201 1 EXCHANGEto manage electronic communicationsand relationship development withinthe parameters of what is best for chil-dren and families. Wrangling socialmedia is first about considering yourprogram’s goals and the people who use(or may use) social media. In assessingyour program’s current and future useof social networks, here are a few criti-cal questions to ask yourself about yourorganization:n Are our stakeholders using social media to connect with one another professionally? Do we want them to engage with others virtually?n How much do we know about best practice for using social media for professional purposes? What do we need to know first?n Do the people who are using social media in our organization have estab- lished goals for using it profession- ally, especially as it relates to profes- sional communication and represen- tation of our program? Is there a social media strategy?n Do we have any established rules of engagement or social media guide- lines in place?n Do the members of our community know how, when, and what to com- municate as official representatives of our program? Do they know how to separate personal communication from professional communication?n Are the relationships meaningful, positive, professional, and productive that have been fostered and/or estab- lished through social media?n Is use of social media in our organiza- tion distracting or destructive, or is it effective and productive?n Can we identify social media evange- lists and/or experts who can help lead the way to best practice?n What resources do we already have in place to support social media implementation?n Do our organizational climate and our existing policies make social media engagement possible?
  3. 3. 14 SOCIAL MEDIA EXCHANGE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 201 1 First, Become Informed application of everyone who will now. (See #6 for more about revi- be impacted by its implementation. sions.) Most people in your program’s eco- I recommend putting together a system probably know what Facebook team that includes a representative We know the more text there is to is, and many may already use it for from every segment in your pro- read in a policy, the less likely the personal purposes. But how much do gram’s ecosystem: parents, staff, policy will be read or implemented. people in your organization know about board members, community mem- Keep your policy to no more than using social media for professional pur- bers, and other representatives. But eight pages, fewer if possible. Use poses? The stakes get higher when you don’t get carried away! Keep the concise, memorable ‘sound-bite wor- factor in the special concerns associated group size to 4-8 thy’ phrases to introduce the key with communication with families and people who are well informed points. For example, the phrase staff members about children. It makes about the objectives of the group “First, do no harm” is memorable. sense to consult a social media profes- and goals for the policy. There are Follow the key phrases with more sional who not only knows how to use it at least two great reasons for this detail, but keep the details simple. for professional engagement, but also collaboration: Good policies are readable, make knows something about your field. I do sense, are easy to implement, and not recommend retaining a professional There are those who believe poli- enforceable. to implement your social networking cies are best written by the people activities on a day-to-day basis, but do at the top of the organization or by 3) 3 P’s: Make it positive, plausible, recommend professional training and their boards. There are at least two and possible. technical assistance before you begin. great reasons to collaborate with As early childhood educators, we representatives within your organi- know stating our expectations posi- The chicken or the egg: zation on your policies: tively and clearly more often results in the desired behaviors: We say “Use Policy before strategy, or n Buy-in: Getting opinions from your inside voice” not “Stop yelling!” strategy before policy? around the organization will help Well, the same principle applies to ensure that you have evangelists policies we outline for adults. Unless people in your organization have Encourage appropriate use of social who will help bring the policy to already begun using social media, it media tools. Positive guidelines set life within the organization. A few probably makes sense to develop the the boundaries without being puni- happy people will go a long way to strategies before you put together the tive. For example, if you want to ensure smooth implementation and rules of engagement. You will want to include a policy about setting up adherence to the policies. explore best practice in social media classroom ‘Pages’ on Facebook that n Perspective: It’s difficult to antici- implementation and select the social ensure confidentiality and privacy, pate how all of this engagement media sites and tactics that will fit your say, “It’s a great idea to set up class- will impact the various stakehold- organization best before you plan how room pages on Facebook. To ensure ers in your organization. Who bet- to govern the use of the sites. Again, the confidentiality of the children is ter to learn from than the folks who consulting a professional would be a protected, you must: will be impacted? good place to start. • Set the privacy settings for your 2) Keep the policy (and the process page so that only the parents in Recommendations for social media to develop it) simple and brief. your classroom (or those to whom policy development While collaboration is important, they grant permission) can see the developing a social media policy is page. 1) Develop a Social Media Policy not rocket-science. It should not • Obtain permission from parents if coalition. take months and consume a lot of you plan to share photographs. We know it takes a village to do energy. Make it your objective to • Use initials instead of children’s full almost everything good for children. develop a working draft in the first names.” Our field is highly collaborative. Why meeting, and hold no more than should the process of developing two meetings overall. Try to Keep it real. Your program isn’t going to your social media policy be any dif- achieve a final version with fewer use social media as its only method of ferent? A comprehensive social media than four drafts. Then make a final communication. Keeping your policies policy should anticipate the real-life decision, and call it a day . . . for and procedures plausible and possible
  4. 4. SOCIAL MEDIA 15 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 201 1 EXCHANGEmeans thinking like your stakeholdersthink and being realistic.4) Align with the NAEYC Code of Ethical Conduct and Statement of Commitment. The National Association for the Edu- cation of Young Children (NAEYC) first published The Code of Ethical Con- duct and Statement of Commitment in 1989 (and revised it in 2005). NAEYC recently added a Supplement for Administrators, and reaffirmed the 2005 version. The Code provides a framework for your social media pol- icy. Here are a few of the principles that relate to social media (p. 9): • Never harm children. Clearly, social media is ripe with potential for child exploitation. It is imperative that children’s confidentiality be pro- tected at all costs. And children should not engage on social net- working sites designed for adults. Your policy will need to outline how to engage using photographs, video, and other media while still main- taining safety and security for the children in your organization. For example, your policy should include a statement like, “Social networking sites intended for adults are only to be used by the adults in your pro- gram. Avoid sharing the names and confidential details about children on social media sites.” • Ensure that programs for young children are based on current knowledge and research of child development and early childhood education. The appro- priate use of social media empowers educators to learn more and collabo- rate more effectively than ever before. Your policy needs to ensure access to the essential tools, and training and technical assistance to provide the necessary tools. In 2011 and beyond, social media is as essential for professional develop- ment as books, journals, and direct training.
  5. 5. 16 SOCIAL MEDIA EXCHANGE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 201 1 • Respect and support families in their Using social media effectively is not new developments: technologies, task of nurturing children. It’s impor- a one-time event. It takes ongoing, your stakeholders, and cultural tant to offer an array of methods of regular activity. Your teams will need changes. Good policies are living, engaging with parents whenever resources to support their work: breathing documents that evolve and however it works for them. access to the Internet, professional over time. Be prepared to update Parents are on social networks. development, and ongoing coaching your policy at least once a year. Your policy will need to outline and mentoring. You will need to how to best use social media to adjust your budgets and staffing While the task of setting off as a support and educate parents along plans accordingly. Your policy will social media pioneer seems daunt- with all of the traditional methods need to outline the details of how, ing, paving the way with forward- of supporting families. when, and where teachers and other thinking social media policies should • Serve as an advocate for children, their staff members will have access to the not be overwhelming. If you sur- families, and their teachers in commu- equipment, training, and ongoing round yourself with a strong social nity and society. As evidenced by support they need to use social media media planning team, you will be recent natural disasters, social effectively. It may even stipulate the able to share resources and great media offers incredible power for amount of money allocated to each thinking. Soon you’ll be ‘doing it,’ advocacy and outreach. Because it classroom to support professional too! is so impactful, our policies have to development related to social media clearly delineate and define repre- implementation, and the specific Looking for more concrete examples sentation of personal views versus times during the day that staff mem- from which to draw? Start with this those views which represent the bers will have access to equipment. outstanding database of example organization. However, policies social media policies: Social Media must encourage, rather than dis- 6) 3 R’s: Roll it out, revisit, and revise. Employee Policy Examples from courage everyone in the organiza- Let’s assume you reach the end of Over 100 Organizations From Social tion to advocate on behalf of your social media policy journey. Media Today (http://ow.ly/5CLUd). children and families. Your policy You’ve collaborated, drafted, revised, might include statements like, “We and gathered support. Now it’s time Social Media Policy Resources encourage you to use social media to introduce the new policies. Staff to inform parents and the commu- and family meetings, newsletters, n 10 Must-Haves for Your Social nity at large about developmen- email blasts, and your usual methods Media Policy: Mashable tally appropriate practice. From of communicating policies will be just n Wild Apricot Blog Article time to time, we may provide you the beginning of the roll-out. You’ll n Social Media Governance: Online with links to information that you also need to model appropriate use Database of Social Media Policies should share with your networks.” and ask your evangelists and social n Advice and samples from Non- media adopters to model and encour- ProfitMarketing Guide 5) Allocate resources to support your age implementation of the policy. n Tips for Writing Your First Social social media policy implementation. Media Policy: NTEN Follow up and monitor along the n Got Social Media? Policy Tool by way. Don’t forget about ongoing pro- Beth Kanter fessional development and ongoing technical assistance! To make this all References work, you will need to join the same social media sites and engage with NAEYC. (2005). Code of ethical conductJonah’s Corner staff members and families. You will and statement of commitment. [Online] not only be in a position to model Available at www.naeyc.org/files/ best practice, you will also be able to naeyc/file/positions/PSETH05.pdf monitor your program’s online activities. NAEYC. (2006). Code of ethical conduct. Supplement for program Just when you think you have reached administrators. [Online] Available at the end of your journey, you will need www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/ to examine your policies in light of positions/PSETH05_supp.pdf