Chapter 10



10.11.1Legislative and Policy Framework


  • The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (Act 108 of 1996) [SAC]
  • The Bill of Rights, Chapter2, Act No. 108 of 1996 [BoR]
  • The South African Schools Act, No. 84 of 1996 [SASA]



  • Guidelines for the consideration of Governing Bodies in adopting a Code of Conduct for Learners (Published under General Notice 776 in Government Gazette 18900 of 15 May 1998) [NG SGB CC]
  • Cyber Bullying – An Initiative of the Department of Basic Education [NG CYBER BULLYING]

10.11.2Guidelines for Participation on Social Media Networks

Frame of Reference

Digital technology and social media are inescapable facts of modern life: they are not simply going to go away, and they bring with them numerous different, new and special circumstances, obligations, rights expectations and pitfalls. It is thus essential that schools get to grips with them, get used to them, come to terms with them and carefully regulate them.

The following is an initial attempt to do so, and these guidelines are for the use of or participation in social media activities for employees or learners. The guidelines will continually evolve as new technologies and social networking tools emerge, so it is incumbent on employees and learners to check every so often to ensure that they are up to date with the latest expectations, and to take time to review these guidelines.


  1. The cyberworld is big
    A social media blunder is a critical problem with the potential to injure learners, employees, guests and others:  to lose confidential information and date; to set back progress previously made by the school; and to open up the user or the school to possible litigation.
  2. It’s your responsibility
    • What you write is ultimately your responsibility.
    • Recognise that what you publish is widely accessible and will be around for a long time, so consider the content carefully.
    • If anything which you write or intend to publish seems inappropriate, use caution.
    • If you are about to publish something that makes you even the slightest bit uncomfortable, don’t shrug it off and hit “send”.
    • If you are at all uncomfortable with anything you are considering putting online, review what you have written, try to figure out what is bothering you, and either fix it or discuss your misgivings with a member of staff.
    • Be sensitive about linking to content: re-directing to another site may be regarded as implying an endorsement of its content. It doesn’t matter who wrote the original: if you re-tweet, share, on-publish, ‘like it’ or in any other way pass it on, you are part of the chain of publication and can be held liable for the content.
  3. Laws apply in the cyber world
    • The laws that apply to your conduct in the real world apply also to your conduct in any part of the Cyberworld.
    • The right to freedom of expression is not unlimited: it must constantly be balanced against other rights, and especially other people’s rights, such as the right to privacy, dignity and an unimpaired reputation.
    • Understand that it is against the law to harm someone’s reputation or dignity, and it is regarded as harassment to do something that the user of social media is aware, or ought to be aware, may cause harm (whether mental, psychological, or physical) to another person.
  4. The social media voice is loud
    • If you own a business, manage an organisation or run a school, make sure that the voice is properly managed.
    • Drinking and tweeting is as bad as drinking and driving: don’t do either.
    • Don’t be a bully, a yob, a pig or a meanie – not on-line and not off-line.
    • Don’t joke about bombs – doing so could get you into serious trouble.
  5. There is no such thing as private
    • In the digital age, you are responsible for constructing your own privacy: be very vigilant about what you post online.
    • Don’t ever think you are anonymous online.
    • Familiarise yourself with privacy settings and avoid sharing information you may not wish to have in the public domain.
    • Realize that if in any way you have any sort of public profile, even when acting or speaking in what you regard as your personal capacity, your particular position will be known to many in the potential audience and you are highly likely to be regarded, misunderstood or misrepresented as presenting an official position.
    • Also bear in mind the five P’s: if you don’t want the police, your parents, your principal, a predator or a potential employer to read it or to know about it, don’t put it online.
  6. Perception can be reality
    • In online networks, the lines between public and private, or personal and professional images, are blurred.
    • Just by identifying yourself as a school employee, you are creating perceptions about your expertise and about the school in the minds of community members, parents, learners and the general public. You are also creating perceptions about yourself with your colleagues and your managers.
    • If you choose to join or engage with the school’s learners and families in a social media context, do so in a professional manner, ever mindful that in the minds of the learners, families, colleagues and the public, you are an employee of this school.
    • Be sure that all content associated with you is consistent with your work and with the school’s beliefs and professional standards.
  7. Online actions have consequences
    • Your reputational asset is massively important, and the reputational harm you can suffer by getting it wrong online is potentially far more serious than any legal or disciplinary consequences.
    • Take care not to share compromising images or inappropriate messages.
    • Recognise that electronic messages are permanent, transferable records which can affect the reputation of people, schools, companies and other organizations – and if you cause them harm, you may find that it costs a lot to say sorry.
    • You can be fired if you breach the duty of good faith that you owe to your employer, or if you bring the name of your employer into disrepute online.
    • You can get expelled from your school or university if you bring the name of the educational institution into disrepute online.
  8. All users have a responsibility for the safety of learners
    • When school employees, especially coaches and teachers, choose to join or engage with social networking groups, they do so as employees of the school and have responsibility for monitoring the content on such networks, and addressing inappropriate behaviour which may occur. This includes acting to protect the safety of minors online. The same responsibility rest on all other users – parents, learners, guests, everyone
    • The blurring of social and professional lines is to be avoided, as it can result in embarrassing or otherwise inappropriate revelations. Special care must be taken by and about educators who “befriend” learners on Facebook or similar social media platforms.
    • Educational employees, but also learners and parents, have a responsibility to maintain appropriate employee-relationships, whether on off or duty.
    • Both case law and public expectations hold educational employees to a higher standard of conduct than the general public.
  9. Be honest, open and transparent
    • Your honesty – or dishonesty – will be quickly noticed in the social media environment.
    • If you are posting about your work, use your real name and identify your employment relationship with the school.
    • Be clear about your role: if you have a vested interest in something you are discussing, be the first to point it out.
    • If you publish to a site outside the school’s network, you must use a disclaimer to state in clear terms that the views expressed are yours alone and that they do not necessarily reflect the views of the school.
  10. Protect confidential information
    • Be thoughtful about what you publish: you must make sure that you do not disclose or use confidential information.
    • Learners, parents and colleagues should not be cited or obviously referenced without their approval: for example, ask permission before posting someone’s picture on a social network or publishing a conversation that was meant to be private. Note that learner photos require parental consent before publication.
    • It is acceptable to discuss general details of about projects, lessons, or events and to use non-identifying pseudonyms for an individual (e.g. Teacher A) so long as the information provided does not make it easy for someone to identify the individual or violate any privacy laws.
    • Recognise and accept that public social networking sites are not the place to carry on school business with learners or parents.
  11. Online doesn’t mean it’s free
    • Just because it’s available online, doesn’t mean something is free for the taking: Trademarks, copyright and fair use requirements must be respected.
    • Where sources are used in any way at all, credit must be given to the sources.
  12. Respect your audience and your colleagues
    • Always express ideas and opinions in a respectful manner.
    • Make sure your communications are in good taste.
    • Do not denigrate or insult others, including other schools or competitors.
    • Remember that our various communities reflect a diverse set of customs, values and points of view.
    • Be respectful: this includes not only the obvious (no ethnic or racial slurs, personal insults, obscenities, etc.). It also includes proper consideration of privacy and of topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory.
  13. Add value
    • There are millions of words out there: the best way to get yours read is to write things that people will value.
    • Communication associated with our school should help fellow educators, parents, learners and co-workers.
    • Ensure that all content published is true and accurate, and not misleading in any sense or manner.
    • It should be thought-provoking and build a sense of community.
    • If it helps people to improve their knowledge or skills, do their jobs better, solve problems, understand education better, then it is adding value.
  14. Keep your cool
    • One of the aims of social media is to create dialogue and debate, so people will not always agree on an issue.
    • When confronted with a difference of opinion, stay cool.
    • If you make an error, be upfront about your mistake and correct it quickly.
    • Don’t pick fights.
    • Sometimes it is best to ignore a comment and not give it credibility by acknowledging it with a response.
  15. Be careful with personal information
    • Criminals operate online: don’t give them information that will make their task easier.
    • People can piece together information you provide on different sites and then use it to impersonate you or someone you know, or even re-set your passwords
    • Make sure you understand and make full use of privacy settings.
    • Know how to disable anonymous postings and use moderating tools on your social media sites.
    • Google yourself every couple of months, and check whether any new mentions have popped up – especially those that you are troubled to see there.
  16. Don’t forget your day job
    • You should make sure that your online activities do not interfere with your job.
    • Remember that school technologies provided for educational use. Use of social media for personal use during school time is therefore prohibited.
  17. Bear in mind …
    • Always bear in mind the example of the delete button: before you send anything, ask yourself whether you really want to send it.
    • All social media coverage of oneself or others in or out of the school should be positive in nature.
    • Negative sentiment or disapproval of any level of authority should be dealt with in face to face discussions or utilising the processes or grievance procedures available to do so.
    • It is advised that pseudonyms be used with caution.  Most pseudonyms can be traced to the original name of the user through a search of contacts, hobbies, interests or places visited.
    • Should such a search lead to a staff member’s true identity, the pseudonym will be considered as if it is the person’s actual name and the person represent their actual place of work.
    • It should be noted that all work prepared on the school’s computers is owned by the school. On departure from the school all teaching resources prepared by the teacher involved should be saved on the server or school laptop in a way that others taking over the portfolio can make use of it.

10.11.3Policy on Social Media for learners

  1. Policy purpose
    Social media and general internet use is a valuable part of our society, and it is up to each individual in the school community to make best use of social media to promote the school’s excellence.  The purpose of the Social Media Policy for Learners is to establish rules and provide guidance for learners on the use of social media; to establish a culture of transparency, trust and integrity in social media activities; and to encourage the integration of social media into our teaching and learning environments.

    • The School recognises the value of teaching enquiry, investigation and innovation using new technology tools to enhance the learning experience.
    • The school also recognises and accepts its authority and responsibility to protect minors from inappropriate content; and its obligation to teach responsible and safe use of the new technologies, as well as the importance of online social media networks as communication and e-learning tool.
    • In line with these values and responsibilities, the school will exercise its right to limit public access to various aspects of the social media within its own social media environment
    • With a view to implementing the school’s aims and responsibilities, and responding to new technologies, this policy addresses learners’ use of publicly available social media networks, including the following: personal websites, web logs (blogs), wikis, social networks, online forums, virtual worlds and any other social media.
  2. Definitions
    • The following meanings are ascribed to technical terms within the context of this policy:
    • Avatar means: an icon or figure representing a particular person in a computer game, Internet forum, etc.
    • Blogs means: the blogs or journals where authors and users can post a textual, audio and video content, and where some permit others to post comments on their blogs.
    • Guests means: people using the school’s social media space and includes, but is not limited to, visitors, workshop attendees, volunteers, adult education staff and learners, governing body members, Independent contractors, vendors and school consultants.
    • Media sharing means: using websites where users post and share videos, audio files and/or photos as well as tag them to enable searchability. (Examples include YouTube, Flickr, Picasa and Google Video.)
    • Microblogs means: websites and spaces that allow users to post short blog entries. (for example, Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare).
    • Public social media networks means: websites, web logs (blogs), wikis, social networks, online forums, virtual worlds and any other social media generally available to the public or consumers, and which do not fall within the school’s electronic technologies network (e.g. MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, Edmodo, Yammer.)
    • School-approved password-protected social media tools means: those that fall within the school’s electronic technologies network or which the school has approved for educational use.
    • Social media use means: communication, collaborative sharing, and reaching out to learners, employees and guests for educational purposes, using school-provided websites, platforms, resources or documents. Examples include, but are not limited to, Google Apps, Ning, Teacher Tube, Moodle and Gaggle.
    • Social networks means: websites where users can create customised profiles and form connections with other users based on shared characteristics and interests.
    • Users means: learners, employees, guests and others who make use of the school’s networks, systems, computers and devices, or any other such devices brought onto the school premises, for carrying out their social media activities
    • Virtual world means: web or software-based platforms that allow users to create avatars or representations of themselves, and through these avatars to meet, socialise and contact with other users. (Second life is an example of a virtual world.)
    • Wikis means: resources or documents edited collaboratively by a community of users with varying levels of editorial control by the website publisher. (Wikipedia is the best known example.)
  3. Social network provisioning and usage
    • In striving to meet its aims and obligations in terms of media and technology involvement, the school provides password-protected social media tools and school-approved technologies for e-learning and encourages the use of school tools for collaboration by employees.
    • The above notwithstanding, public social media networks outside of those approved by the school may not be used for classroom instruction or school-sponsored activities without the prior authorisation of principal or his/her delegate, and parental consent for learner participation on social networks.
  4. The school’s rights and authority
    • The principal and or his/her delegate are granted authority through this policy to create rules, administrative and other regulations and protocols for the carrying out of the purpose of this policy.
    • Within the social media context, users are required to comply fully with this policy and its accompanying administrative regulations and all other relevant school policies, regulations, rules, procedures, social media terms of use and other legal documents, as well as local, provincial and national laws concerning social media.
    • All cyber actions by users attached to the school in any way must be conducted in accordance with the law, assist in the protection of the school’s resources, ensure compliance with this policy and its administrative regulations, as well as other school policies, regulations, rules and procedures, social media and Internet service providers’ terms, and local, provincial and national laws.
    • The school has a right, but not a duty, to inspect, review or retain any electronic communication created, sent, displayed, received or stored on or over the school’s electronics systems; and to monitor, record, check, track, log, access or otherwise inspect the content of its systems.
    • In addition, and in accord with the law, the school has the right, but not a duty, to inspect, review or retain any electronic communications created, sent, displayed, received or stored on users’ personal computers, electronic devices, networks, internet or electronic communication systems; and also in data-bases, files, software, and media that contain school information and data.
    • Also, in accordance with the law, the school has the right, but not the duty, to inspect, review, or retain electronic communications created, sent, displayed, received or stored on another entity’s computer or electronic device when users bring to and use such other entities’ computers or electronic devices at a school location, function or event, or connect it to the school network and/or systems, or any system that contains school programs, or school data or information.
    • The school will cooperate to the extent legally required of it with social media sites, internet service providers, local, provincial and state officials in investigations or with other legal requests, whether the actions be criminal or civil.
    • If any user believes that there is a conflict in the requirements with which he or she is obligated to comply, the matter must be brought to the attention of a supervisor, principal or media administrator who will follow through with the matter.
  5. School expectations of its learners
    • Responsible staff members are required to ensure that this policy is understood by learners working within their area of control.
    • As the line between professional and personal relationships is blurred within the social media context, the school takes no position on an individual learner’s decision to participate in the use of social media networks for personal use during personal time: however, use of these media for personal use during school time is prohibited.
    • It is the responsibility of all users to consider carefully their behaviour and what they place online when communicating with, or “friending” any individual.
    • Learners and parents must understand that when employees choose to engage with, or join the school’s learners, families or fellow employees in a social media context that exists outside of those approved by the school, the employees are expected to maintain their professionalism as school employees and to accept responsibility for addressing or reporting inappropriate behaviour or activity by learners on these networks.
    • In similar vein, learners and parents need to recognise that staff members have been told that they should not engage in social interaction with learners through social networking sites unless there is an educationally valid context. In the event of a complaint or allegation being received by the school in this regard, the school will follow through and investigate the matter, and responsibility will be on the staff member to demonstrate that the use was appropriate.
    • Users should have no expectation of privacy in anything they create, store, send, receive or display on or over the school’s various electronic systems, or the school’s authorised third-party systems, including their personal files or any of the use of these systems.
    • All learners are expected to serve as positive ambassadors for the school and to be respectful in all communications (whether by word, image or other means).
    • Learners may not coerce others into providing passwords, login details or other security access information to them so that they may access social media or locations that they have no authorisation to access.
    • The school reserves the right to access, view, record, check, receive, monitor, track, log, store or otherwise inspect and utilise any or all of its own systems, as well as authorised third-party systems, and to monitor and allocate file server space.
    • Users using the school’s systems or authorized third-party systems in use on or via the school premises or network to transmit or receive communications and information shall be deemed to have consented to having the content of any such communication accessed, viewed, recorded, checked, received, monitored, tracked, logged, stored or otherwise inspected or utilised by the school, and to monitor and allocate file server space.
    • Passwords and message delete functions do not restrict the school’s ability or rights to access such communications or information.
    • Anything posted on a learner’s website or web blog, or any Internet content for which the learner is responsible, is subject to all school rules, regulations and guidelines.
    • The school is entitled to view and monitor a learner’s website or web blog at any time without consent or previous approval.
  6. Inappropriate usage
    • Learners shall not use obscene, profane or vulgar language on any social media network, nor engage in communication or conduct that is racist, harassing, threatening, bullying, libellous or defamatory; or that discusses or encourages any illegal activity or the inappropriate use of alcohol or illegal drugs; improper sexual behaviour, sexual harassment or bullying.
    • Learners may not use their school e-mail addresses for communications on public social media networks that have not been approved by the school.
    • Learners must make it clear that any views expressed are their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the school.
    • Learners may not act as a spokesperson for the school, or post comments as a representative of the school, except when authorised to do so by the principal or the principal’s delegate.
    • Learners may not disclose information on any social media network that is confidential or proprietary to the school, its learners or employees, or that is protected by data privacy laws.
    •  Learners may not use or post the school’s logo on any social media network without permission from the principal or his/her delegate.
    • Learners may not post images of other learners on any social media network without written consent from the parent of the learner whose image is to be posted, and also from the principal (or his or her delegate), except in the case of images taken in the public arena, such as at sporting events or public performances.
    • Learners may not post any non-public images of the school premises and property, including floor plans.
    • Because other users of social media networks may view the learner as a representative of the school, the school requires/expects learners to observe the following rules when referring to the school, its learners, programmes, activities, employees, volunteers or communities on any social media networks:
      • A learner’s use of any social media network and a learner’s postings, displays or communications on any social media network must comply with all regulations and laws, and any applicable school or departmental policies.
      • Learners are responsible for their own behaviour when communicating on social media, including being held accountable for the content of the communications that they post, state or on-send on social media locations.
      • Learners should note that information that they place in the social media, even though it may be designated as private, can be accessed for litigation purposes, distributed by friends and can be accessed in various other legal ways.
      • Inappropriate communications may not be posted on social media, including but not limited to:
        • confidential, personally identifiable or sensitive school information about learners, employees and guests;
        • child pornography, sexually exploitative material, bullying/cyber bullying or inappropriate commercialisation of childhood experiences;
        • defamatory or discriminatory statements or images;
        • infringed-upon intellectual property, such as copyright ownership;
        • terrorist threats; and
        • illegal items or activities.
  7. Interaction with social media groups
    • The school recognises that learner groups or members of the public may create social media platforms representing learners or groups within the school.
    • When employees, including coaches and consultants, choose to join in or engage with these social networking groups, they do so as an employee of the school, and their status and standing vis-a-vis their learners is not altered by the fact that engagements take place on social networks.
    • Learners have a co-responsibility for maintaining appropriate teacher-learner and learner-learner relationships at all times, and also for reporting or addressing inappropriate behaviour or activity on social media networks. This includes acting to protect the safety of minors online.
  8. Consequences of any breach of this policy
    • This policy and its various rules, regulations or guidelines, incorporate all other relevant school policies, such as, but not limited to, learner discipline policies, codes of conduct, acceptable use policies, copyright and anti-discrimination policies.
    • General rules for behaviour, ethics and communications apply when using social networking systems and information, in addition to the stipulations of this policy and the school’s various regulations.
    • Users must be aware that violations of this policy or other rules or guidelines on social media may result in loss of access and a variety of other disciplinary actions, including, but not limited to, warnings, usage restrictions, loss of privileges, position reassignment, oral or written reprimands, suspension and/or expulsion, as well as legal proceedings on a case-by-case basis.

Acknowledgements:  in drawing up this policy the GBF has the drawn on the following sources:

  • Don’t film yourself having sex: Sadleir and De Beer
  • Cyber law: maximising safety and minimising risk in classrooms: Bissonette
  • Kodak online;;
  • South Africa’s Government Communication and Information System; and various school, education district and state social media policies in the USA and Australia

10.11.4Cyber Bullying and Sexting

(With acknowledgement to Kobus van Wyk’s website,

  • What is Cyber bullying?
    An unintended, unwelcome consequence of technology is cyber-bullying.

    • The prefix cyber is used in many terms to describe new things that are being made possible by modern information and communication technologies, such as computers, cell phones and the internet.
    • We know the phenomenon of bullying among children – when weaker ones are intimidated by others through name-calling, spreading of rumours, threats, breaking their belongings, and physical abuse.
    • Cyber-bullying is the use of technology to achieve the objectives of the bully. Since many modes of technology are available to children, cyber-bullying can take many forms – the methods used are limited only by the child’s imagination and access to technology.  Examples are:
      • Facebook is often used to post nasty comments with the intent of insulting, hurting or harming the reputation of a youngster. These comments could be text, such as “Sally has slept with every boy in the class”; at times they may be in the form of photographs, which have been manipulated into a slanderous image.
      • Cell phones can take this practice to even younger children. Hurtful messages are sent, such as: “You are fat and ugly and we all hate you”. It is even possible to send these messages anonymously – simply buy a SIM card at a supermarket for a few cents, send the messages, and dispose of the card.  Nobody will ever trace the bully – but the damage has been done.
    • The effects of cyber-bullying on children can be the same as that of physical bullying: low self-esteem, frustration, anger, depression, loss of friends, exclusion from social activities, and in severe cases even suicide attempts.
    • Our children are growing up in an environment that has changed dramatically over the past decade and it is an absolute necessity that principals stay on track with developing technology.  Many schools and parents report that cyber-bullying is on the increase in South Africa and protecting our children against it is no longer optional.
    • The first step a principal must take to fight cyber-bullying is to gain an understanding of the problem.
  • What is Sexting?
    An increasing number of children, some even in primary schools, engage in sexting – a practice of sending sexual messages by electronic means. Sexting may be done in plain text format, but in many cases includes pictures. These messages can be posted on social networks such as Facebook, but the most common way of transmitting them is by means of cell phones.
    Sexting is a serious practice with harmful consequences. The moment you put a sex message out in cyber space, you become vulnerable. Your reputation is at risk and one unconsidered act can change your life forever.
  • Tips for Educators
    The principal is responsible for establishing and enforcing policies to contend with cases of cyber-bullying and sexting in the school. Classroom teachers have an even greater responsibility, since they are dealing more directly with learners who may be affected by these practices.

    • What can teachers do?
      • Recognize the reality of cyber-bullying and sexting in your classroom.
        If it is important that the principal recognizes the prevalence of these vices in the school, it is even more important that you must accept the fact that they are more than likely being practised by some learners in your classroom.  Ignoring this reality is the same as closing your eyes to the possibility that some learners are using drugs – you may wish that this is not happening, but it does!
      • Understand clearly how cyber-bullying and sexting work.
        How do learners use technology for these practices?  What are the various forms they take?  This implies that you must have a solid understanding of the technologies your learners are using.  Do they have cell phones?  For what do they use them?  Do they have access to computers?  Are they using social networks?  Do you understand how these tools – which you may be using for teaching – can be abused?
      • Let them know what you know.
        It is important that your learners know that you are aware of cyber-bullying and sexting.  You must be one step ahead of them so that you’re not caught by surprise.  Have open discussions with them in class about the matter.   You can deal with the topic during Life Orientation sessions, but it could also naturally come up during other lessons.  The innocent learners in your class – the potential victims of cyber-bullying and sexting – must be prepared: they need guidance on how to handle these abuses and must know that you are there for them if they need your help.  Similarly, the culprits (or future ones) must be deterred – they need to understand the consequences of their actions.
      • The one thing you must not do is to blame technology for cyber-bullying and sexting.  Banning technology will not solve the problem, and is akin to banning books because of the likelihood that they may contain pornographic material.
    • The safe use of technology is an important twenty-first century skill you must impart to your learners.  Teachers who accept this responsibility are indeed a blessing to their learners.


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