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New Facebook Effort Targets Educating School Counselors

A new guide strives to help counselors better understand Facebook.

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Meet with your counselor if you’re worried about college application fees.
Meet with your counselor if you’re worried about college application fees.

With the fervent pace of social media and technology changes in today's society, a new guide is promoting a need for educators to be familiar with Facebook, the country's most popular social network.

The resource, "Facebook for School Counselors," published today by Facebook, in partnership with The Internet Keep Safe Coalition (iKeepSafe) and The American School Counselor Association (ASCA), aims to teach school counselors how to use Facebook and teach students best practices on the social network. School counselors, who play a major role in some students' lives, can have an impact on how students represent themselves and interact with one another on Facebook. 

"It's important to provide school counselors—often the first line of defense in managing digital incidents with students—the necessary tools and skills to be competent and confident," said Marsalil Hancock, president of iKeepSafe, in a press release. 

[Explore how technology has had a positive impact in the classroom.] 

The guide focuses on providing knowledge for counselors to effectively lead four suggested actions: helping develop school policies, responding to online incidents, detecting at-risk behavior on Facebook, and dealing with how students represent themselves on the platform. 

For schools that have created social media policies for its students, a school counselor "may be on the front line in addressing cases where students fail to follow rules the school has set," the resource's authors write. 

Along with students potentially violating school policies, other offenses that were once seen primarily on school grounds, such as bullying, are becoming more digital. Roughly 7 percent of high school students were bullied online during the 2008-2009 school year, according to a report released in 2011 by the National Center for Education Statistics. 

[Read about how bullying affects a quarter of high school students.] 

The new Facebook guide recommends school counselors learn how to detect bullying online, know how to report offenses to Facebook, and decide when reports of abuse or harassment should be escalated within the school or district. 

"Counselors can teach students how to identify bullying and how to report it, and provide a clear outline of steps that will be taken after a report is made," the guide notes. "This transparency is critical as students and their parents are far less likely to report incidents if they aren't confident that reporting will help the situation rather than make it worse." 

The guide also encounters how counselors should teach students how to carry themselves on Facebook. 

"In today's world, part of students' reputations are comprised of what they write and do online," the resource states. "For young people, it is sometimes difficult to keep their long-term reputation in mind, especially when they can get caught up in the moment." 

Counselors should be aware that what students put on a social media platform may be reviewed by college admissions officials. In a September 2011 survey of 359 colleges and universities, Kaplan Test Prep revealed that 24 percent of admissions officers reported using Facebook or other social networking pages to research an applicant. 

[See why college admissions officials are turning to Facebook to research students.] 

But, the guide states, counselors can also encourage students to share "positive, respectful posts" that can ultimately enhance a student's reputation on Facebook. 

"As a school counselor, you are in a unique position to work with students and help them understand the long-term positive or negative impact their online reputations will have," the guide notes. 

What do you think about Facebook's new guide? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.