Is Facebook a line that shouldn’t be crossed with parents?
Facebook is arguably the most popular and widely used social media platform with the majority of individuals holding an account and using it daily. It is a great way to share your thoughts, photos and opinions with the outside world and your friends and family. But should Early Years practitioners accept friend requests from parents at the setting?
Many Early Years settings will include the use of social media, including Facebook, in their policies and procedures. Each setting will have a different approach but most will contain similar principles such as not allowing practitioners to discuss work or the setting on their account. Some settings may not allow practitioners to disclose the name of the setting in their work history; whereas other settings will actively encourage practitioners to share posts from the nursery Facebook to spread the great practice they can offer.
One issue that is widely debated amongst Early Years professionals is the acceptance of parents on their Facebook. Some settings will stop this from happening, stating in their policy that practitioners are to not accept friend requests from any parent in the nursery. This can be difficult for those who were friends with a parent before the child started the setting, employees that have children in the nursery and in some instances even family members. Policies around this issue differ with some managers stating that these people must also be removed; and others dictating this as acceptable.
There are many reasons for this to be written into policies, here are some of these reasons;
- Breach of confidentiality – Parents may, at times, add sensitive information such as break ups to their Facebook. This can make it difficult for professionals who are friends with the parent, sometimes leaving the practitioners feeling like they need to ‘pick a side.’ This information can be spread around the setting, when the parent may not want others to know.
- Crossing professional boundaries – Adding parents on Facebook can cross the line between professional and personal. Although it is important to be friendly to parents and build a strong bond this does need to stay professional. The child is your main responsibility at all times and by viewing the parent as a ‘friend’ can make decisions about that child, such as raising a safeguarding concern, difficult to make.
- Personal lives – Practitioners are fully entitled to a life outside of the setting and their ‘practitioner’ role; however having parents on Facebook can make this difficult. Photos or statuses may offend a parent, causing an unwanted atmosphere between them and the practitioner.
Some Early Years setting do not stop practitioners from accepting parents on Facebook, but will usually have rules about doing so within the policy, such as not discussing anything work related with the parent on the platform.
Having parents on Facebook can be a great way to build a trusting relationship, enabling the parent to get to know the person who is looking after their child on a daily basis. This also works the other way round, as many parents will share what their child has been doing or their achievements; enabling the practitioner to gain a better understanding of the child’s home life. This can be beneficial for the parents in feeling that they can talk to the practitioner and gain support where needed.
Children will often spend a great deal of time in the care of Early Years professionals, especially if the child is full time or goes through the nursery from a baby room to preschool. Over this time the child and parents will build a bond with the practitoner. Once the child leaves the setting, or a particular room, they will often not see the practitioner again. Having parents on Facebook can be a lovely way to stay in contact once the child moves on, enabling the parent to share their child’s achievements as they grow and helps the parent to feel that they are continually supported. This will more often than not reflect well on the setting, showing that the practitioners have a genuine bond and care for the child and family.
Here are some ways to protect the setting if practitioners are friends with parents on Facebook;
- Ensure your policies and procedures are CLEAR. They must cover every eventuality from family members to past parents.
- Add this policy to your induction procedure and make sure that new employees are informed of the rules and know what is expected of them.
- If you decide to stop practitioners from having parents as friends n Facebook, you will need to outline the consequences of breaching this in your policy.
- Parents should be made aware of the rules, especially if you decide that it is disallowed. A simple sign in reception can minimise the risk and avoid any practitioners from feeling rude for declining a request.
- Ensure the each practitioner fully understands the rules around social media, and that if they accept parents or not, they are representing the company and should be wary of this when posting to Facebook. It is a good idea to remind them that every person is a potential customer in the future!
Being friends with parents on Facebook has many pros and cons; however it is down to the setting to decide which path to take.