Social Networking Laws

We need to fix them.

Social Networking and Education

Current laws, both federal and state level, are insufficient to encourage the use of social networking in schools while protecting the rights of students. The way things stand now, rights and responsibilities of schools are unclear. Because social networking is potentially useful to learning environments and represents the reality of communication today, does that mean schools have a responsibility to teach about it? Must schools discipline students who abuse social networking? Where is the line drawn for when schools must intervene and how much?

Existing Federal Laws

Why it is not enough

Note that the laws above revolve around protecting the privacy of children, but there is nothing about the responsibility of the school in regards to social networking. Legally, schools are prohibited from taking action that would expose student information, which causes many teachers and school administrators to shy away from using social networking in school.

The first problem is that social networking opens up information to the entire class. In order to overcome this problem, schools must be transparent in how they are using information. Also, if using something like an online discussion board, then teachers must not provide feedback in a way that others can see. This limits the teacher because they can then not join in the conversation as a teacher-participant.

The second problem is that students sometimes abuse social networking. We hear about cyberbullying or inappropriate student-teacher relationships in social networking on the news all the time. Because students (and sometimes teachers) don't use the sites appropriately, many schools are concerned about allowing it in their institutions. One of the problems is that if a student posts slanderous or disruptive content on the personal social networking site, the school's potential actions are limited. They can't require a student to take down the information from their personal social networking account, even if it is accessed on school computers. It is easier to deny students access on school provided technology rather than to try to combat it any other way. So, despite the fact that students can access social networking sites on their personal phones, many school computers have blocked these sites.

The third problem, and I think the the most important, is that students are using the social networking sites anyway. There is no going back. Schools might deny access on school computers, but it doesn't make the problem go away. Students sometimes don't even know the problems that come with social networking. They need adult guidance to learn how to use it responsibly.

Influential Cases regarding privacy


  • We need a law to protect the rights of schools regarding social networking and digital content. This law should allow teachers to engage in discussion on social networking boards, but not provide graded feedback. This is an important difference because it allows teachers to do their job: to guide students in the way to properly use social networking.
  • Schools should be given options for how to handle social networking when it becomes a problem that significantly disrupts school. What this means needs to be clearly and deliberately explained. A general statement is not sufficient, we need to know precisely what type of student behavior on social networking can be dealt with by the school and in what way.
  • Schools need incentives to use social networking. This could come in the form of financial support to pay for an employee to monitor and maintain social networking on campus. It also come from the executive and legislative branches making statements about their commitment to expanding the use of these particular digital technologies in classrooms.

Additional Reading

Bureau of Consumer Protection Business Center. (2013). Complying with COPPA: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved at

Casey, G. & Evans, T. (2011) Designing for learning: Online social networks as classroom environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(7).

Clark, L. & Gould, M. (2001). American Library Association files lawsuit challenging Children’s Internet Protection Act. American Library Association. Retrieved at

Engel, E. (2013) Reps Engel, Schakowsky, Grimm seek to protect online content. Retrieved at

Federal Communications Commission. (2014). Children’s Internet Protection Act. Retrieved at

Gov Track. (n.d) H.R. 5319 (109th): Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006. Retrieved at

Krasnow, M. (2014). State Social Media Account Laws for Educational Institutions. Dorsey. Retrieved at

Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991) Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Lewis, C., Enciso, P., & Moje, E. (2007). Reframing sociocultural research on literacy: Identity, agency, and power. New York: Routledge.

Mendels, P. (1997). Supreme Court throws out Communications Decency Act. The New York Times. Retrieved at

Spring, J. (2011). The American school: A global context from the Puritans to the Obama era. New York: McGraw Hill.

Student Press Law Center. (2008). Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier: A complete guide to the Supreme Court Decision. (White paper). Retrieved at

University of North Carolina- Wilmington (2014) FERPA in the Age of the Internet Classroom. Retrieved from

US Department of Education (2011) FERPA General Guidelines for Students. Retrieved at

US Department of Education (2011) Safeguarding Student Privacy. Retrieved at

US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, & United States of America. (1973). Records, Computers, and the Rights of Citizens. Retrieved at

US Department of Homeland Security. (2008). Fair Information Practice Principles. Retrieved at

Wagner, M. (2011). Knowledge is Freedom: CIPA, COPPA, and FERPA Explained Succinctly. EdTech Team. Obtained at

White House (2010). National Incentive for Cybersecurity Education relationship to President’s education agenda. Retrieved at /rss_viewer/cybersecurity_niceeducation.pdf

Winn, M. R. (2011). Promote digital citizenship through school-based social networking. Learning & Leading With Technology, 39(4), 10-13.

Yunus, M., Salehi, H., Chenzi, C. (2012). Integrating social networking tools into ESL writing classroom: Strengths and weaknesses. English Language Teaching, 5(8).