I first wrote this almost four years ago – and since then the influence of social media has exploded exponentially.
Who would’ve predicted, four years ago, that our charitable donations would be based on a shared photo of a friend on Facebook having ice cold water poured over their head? Or that a single Twitter photo would be retweeted 1.3 MILLION times in less than an hour?
Back in 2010, more nurseries were setting up websites and Facebook pages. Now it is almost obligatory to have a website or Facebook page, whether you are a major nursery chain or a single childminder.
Blogs are becoming much more widespread, with a wide range of subject material, from using resources to comment on political decisions.
The benefits are still evident:
- to reinforce the parent partnership
- a forum for discussion and learning between childminders
- a sense of community, especially around government decisions such as Agencies
- to celebrate the children’s achievements
- to advertise upcoming events
- to share in successes, such as Ofsted grading or accreditation
For childminders, places like the Childminding Help http://www.childmindinghelp.co.uk/forum/ and the Early Years Foundation Stage Forum http://eyfs.info/home are brilliant for asking those questions that you just want to ‘run past’ other professionals. Obviously you should consider who is giving the advice and their credentials, just as you would do for anything. But the beauty of this type of social networking is that is is quick, open-ended and you could potentially have access to a wide variety of well qualified, informed professionals.
Some of the other social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, tend to be used more informally, to share comments or thoughts, rather than the more in-depth conversations. This can mean that, sometimes, an off the cuff remark or a comment made in the heat of the moment or something taken out of context can turn quickly into something more serious.
For this reason it is advisable to have a ‘work’ Twitter/Facebook, where you can be professional, and a ‘personal’ one, where you can share pictures of desserts or let everyone know it’s happy hour at the bar.
Drawing a very clear line between personal and professional life is so important for childminders in particular. Parents often choose this form of childcare as a ‘home from home’ and they may find this hard to reconcile with photos of cocktails on your Twitter stream, even if the photos were from the weekend.
Many of the newly emerging social media, such as Instagram and Pinterest, are based around images or photos. As we know, a good image can portray many different things. They are great for getting ideas, sharing our achievements in the mud kitchen or demonstrating your craft skills. However, you should be really careful about sharing images of children, even if you do have written permission from parents. Once images are on the internet, they can be illegally copied and distributed without your knowledge. This is doubly important if your home can be identified in the photos.
As a childminder, there may be other people in your home, such as family members, friends coming to visit or other childminders. It is sensible to have a conversation with others about your policy of sharing images and information on social media. It could be that you have an understanding about what is acceptable and what isn’t, but you should consider having a written policy that details your exact ethos and procedures about social media, so there is no confusion.
Similarly, if you attend childminding groups or networks, it is worthwhile finding out their policy on social media, such as Tweeting comments on the morning’s session or advertising on social media.
If there is any doubt about anything you hope to post, you could ask a trusted friend to read anything over, before it is dispatched to the internet.
This does sound like a lot of rules and warnings about social networking. I should stress that I’m personally very keen on the benefits of social media use, and thoroughly enjoy the way that it gives me access to interesting, intelligent and enthusiastic professionals all over the world. This can be especially important for Childminders, because you tend to work by yourself in your own home, so may not regularly see other practitioners, or be able to attend conferences or seminars.
And you can see how social networking can change the world, take as one example Penny Webb’s extensive blogs that challenge Ofsted and the Government on a regular basis.
Social networking can bring huge benefits in keeping up to date: News of new MPs, change in policies, launch dates of new Laws, outcomes of legal proceedings, amongst a range of things, can be communicated almost instantly, whether you are at home or out with the children on a visit somewhere.
Trending on Twitter can indicate the things that are important to Twitter users on that day and can sometimes alert you to news that you may have otherwise missed.
Professional Facebook pages can enable you to share ideas (your own and others), post information and demonstrate the excellence of the service that you offer.
Used sensibly and thoughtfully, social networking can be a great source of up to date information as well as keeping in contact with friends, MPs and professionals around the world.
I have no doubt that in four years time there will be new types of social media, bringing their own hazards and benefits.
As long as we minimise the hazards and embrace the benefits, we can all benefit from this.
With many thanks to Simona McKenzie, for the idea for this post, and who can be found on Twitter: @ and on LinkedIn.