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Reinforcing social media and cellphone policies

Inappropriate contact through social media and unauthorized cellphone communications, such as texting, can often lead to allegations of abuse. These allegations can frequently involve unapproved contact between young adult (18 – 29 year olds) staff members and minors; but these allegations can also involve contact from older adult staff. The Pew Research Center found that texting is most prevalent among cell owners ages 18 to 29 — 97% of them use their cell phones to send texts. The number is nearly as high (92%) for those ages 30 to 49, but falls off to 72% for those 50 to 64, and then down to 34% for those over 65. The same study found that 75% of all teens text. On a typical day, the median number of texts sent by teens age 12-17 stood at 60.

Some key points to drive home with your staff:

  • If staff need to contact a student or parent through e-mail, all correspondence should be through their work e-mail address. Staff should not contact students or parents through their personal email addresses. In addition, e-mails should be sent to groups of students/parents, not an individual student or parent, as often as possible. If an e-mail is warranted to an individual student or parent, a designated staff member should be copied on the e-mail so that it is not a one-to-one communication.
  • If staff need to text students or parents, this should also be done through their work e-mail as much as possible. While at certain times this may not be possible (for example, at a field trip where text messaging may be used to coordinate activities), texts should always be sent to more than one recipient, whether done from a cell phone or work e-mail address. If an individual text is warranted, always copy a designated staff member on the text.
  • Consider getting parental permission for a member to receive text messages from staff. The school can also offer to include parental phone numbers in their distribution lists so that parents receive the same text as their children or teens.

The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments. Please contact us or your attorney if you have any questions.

For safety or risk management questions or suggestions, please contact Markel.

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