NYC's Student Social Media Guidelines Deserve High Praise

New York City’s Department of Education recently revised Student Social Media Guidelines prove that large government agencies can still produce stellar work product. These guidelines raise the bar for all future discussions on the issue of how teen social media use can impact future college and career considerations.

(1) By affirming the positive power of social media as a tool to advance academic and career interests, the Department of Education has dropped the “red flag” in favor of delivering critically needed advice to students who are facing unprecedented competition to gain acceptance to elite colleges and universities:

“Because many colleges and employers search social media before making admissions and hiring decisions, you might want to use social media as a tool to demonstrate your interests in positive ways.”

(2) The guidelines are written in a clear and constructive manner using a non-alarmist tone:

“You should always take responsibility for the content you post in all social media environments. While you may think that using a fake name may prevent posts from becoming part of your footprint, there are still ways to link that information to the person who posted it (for example, through an Internet IP address or other distinguishing information linking posts). Be your best self online – post accurate information and be accountable for what you say.”

(3) The advice is sensible, balanced and respectful displaying an authentic knowledge and appreciation of teen social media use:

“There are many ways to protect yourself online. For example, only accept friend requests from people you know. You may interact online with people you have never met in person. Use caution, find out as much as you can about the person, and tell a parent if you are considering meeting one of these people face to face. Additionally, while it is important to be yourself online, it is also important to remember not to post too many identifying details (such as where you live or your social security number) because revealing that information can be potentially dangerous or compromise your identity in some way.”

(4) The issue of Cyberbullying is addressed methodically and pragmatically and the legal advice is sound and undeniably understandable:

“If you are being cyberbullied or hear about/observe someone else being cyberbullied, report the behavior and get help. You can tell a parent, school staff, another adult family member, or a trusted adult. If no adult is available and you or someone else is in danger, call 911.”

“It is important not to respond to, retaliate to, or forward any harassing, intimidating, or bullying content. “De-friend,” block, or remove people who send inappropriate content. It may also be a good idea to save harassing messages, as this evidence could be important to show an adult if the behavior continues. If the behavior is school-related, print out the messages and provide them to the school when you report the incident (do not email them to anyone).”

(5) We would only have added one additional section raising awareness surrounding the use of native social media messaging as a communications tool. Most teens today are communicating using the native messaging apps found via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. As they get closer to college, they will likely add LinkedIn to their list of social networks. As we first discussed in our blog Applicant Digital DNA Now Touches All Aspects of College Admissions:

When a message or inquiry is sent to a college official using a network’s native messaging system, the applicant is also transmitting a digital dossier containing all profile information specific to that network including posts, photographs, friends and followers. These young adults are so accustomed to using social media to fire off informal messages to friends that it is hard to imagine they will take the time to properly craft a message as they might if using email or writing a letter.”

In conclusion, NYC's social media guidelines contain critically useful information which hopefully will propagate throughout the NYC school system and then beyond. The messaging is clean, insightful and straightforward and should make a difference in the lives of all NYC’s public school students. Congratulations to the NYC Department of Education for a job well done.

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