Social media is changing the landscape of personal and professional risk.
Using blogs, social networking and personal websites to communicate is now common place. Much of the appeal with social media is the relative anonymity and the speed with which information can be shared. Users can impart their views on any subject to a worldwide audience with the click of a button. However, therein lies the risk with social media. Content posted on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and blogs can damage the reputation of a business and attract claims of defamation or unprofessional conduct.
Remember, Kinderloop is unlike any other social media as its a closed loop specific to your and your setting. Your Kinderloop is your Kinderloop, no-one else but invited and linked parents can see the posts!
There is a common misconception that social media only poses a risk to its users. Some people believe that if they are not using web-based technologies themselves, they don’t need to worry about the risk. However, this is not always the case. There is a growing list of examples where businesses have been significantly impacted by comments posted online by employees, clients or others. Common ways in which child care centres may be negatively impacted by social media include:
• Allegations that you or your centre has damaged a person’s reputation by making disparaging or defamatory comments
• Breaching a client’s privacy by posting images or comments about them or their child, without their consent
• Individuals working in your centre posting material on sites such as Facebook that portrays them in an unprofessional or controversial way – e.g. offensive jokes or photographs, excessive alcohol use or the like
• Theft of an individual’s personal details or confidential business information
• Clients or others posting negative comments about you or your centre.
A proactive approach to managing social media risk can help prevent claims of defamation or unprofessional conduct against you. It can also help you to maximise the many benefits of marketing your business through social media. Key messages to share with your employees, including casual staff, are outlined below.
• Take care when making comments about anyone, including employees, colleagues, clients or other service providers. Although you may not believe your comments to be inappropriate, take the time to reflect on how they may be perceived by others. Remember, the relative anonymity afforded by some social media sites is no excuse for unprofessional behaviour.
• Avoid falling victim to identity theft by limiting the amount of personal information you disclose on social media sites. Passwords should be changed regularly and created in a way that is difficult for someone else to predict.
• Maintain secure access to all smart phones and computers. Regularly update passwords and develop clear procedures for people to follow when using these devices.
• Activate password-protected screen savers on all computers and ensure employees always log off before leaving.
• When sharing information via social media, ensure you set high privacy or security settings and think carefully before divulging your home address or other personal information.
• Maintain security of any social media accounts set up in your centre’s name. Strict control of what information is added to your Facebook page or who is moderating blogs is essential for protecting your good reputation.
• No longer can it be said that an employee’s actions outside of working hours are not relevant to his or her employment. There is an increasing trend of employers monitoring the online behaviour of their staff and potential recruits. Again, take the time to reflect on how your actions may be perceived by others. Remember, once you have posted your entry online it is very difficult to completely remove.
• Consider including specific conditions in employee contracts and policies relating to social media use. For instance, consider specifically prohibiting comment about employment and client matters and acting in a manner that may negatively impact on the centre’s reputation, whether through personal or business use of social media or otherwise. This will greatly assist you to deal with any breaches and to implement disciplinary action against staff involved. There was a recent case in another industry where an employee disclosed details of a client’s condition, as well as making derogatory comments about the individual. The fact the employer had a strong written policy and contractual clauses prohibiting the employee acting in such a manner assisted in defending the termination of the employee.
• Periodically scan online content related to your centre. Take the time to consider how you will respond to any negative posts before the situation arises. While people may post negative comments about you or your centre, the best way to prevent this from occurring is to commit to good, open communication. Carefully explaining to clients the model of care, the fees structure and the rationale behind the rules you’ve got in place to achieve quality care are all essential for effective communication.
Thanks to Guild Insurance for their keen thoughts on this subject.