Social media etiquette isn’t really something that you think about when starting an in-home daycare. The truth is that it is something that you should definitely be aware of. I’ve seen numerous issue arise from providers in my network over the use of social media.
There’s no denying that we live in a world obsessed with social media, it’s everywhere. I’m sure that every person reading this has an account on at least one social media platform, if not all. Because social media is so popular and wide spread it’s important that daycare providers take a look at their use of social media and follow some simple social media etiquette rules. Social media can be an awesome tool to have in your daycare’s toolbox but used incorrectly it could cause some major headaches.
Here are my “do’s and don’ts” of social media for daycare providers. Feel free to add yours below in the comments section!
Social Media Etiquette for Daycare Providers
By far the biggest social media platform currently is Facebook. I’m sure everyone you know has an account. Everyone I know has one, including my 75 year old grandparents who hate technology. No one can escape Facebook 😉 This also means that you must be aware of how you use Facebook with your business.
When it comes to Facebook I’m sure you have one or several of these below:
- Business Page
- Personal Profile
- Business Profile
- Business Group
Most providers, at the very least, have a Facebook Page for their daycare. If not, don’t fret because it’s not a necessity.
Pages – Facebook pages offer you the ability to have a way to share photos and activities as well as information about your program. You can even have current and former clients post reviews from clients. It can be a really useful tool. The big issue with Facebook pages is that they are all public, which means that as soon as you post a something it’s out there for anyone to see. Many parents are not comfortable with photos of their children posted in such a public way. If sharing full photos of kids is something you want to do make sure that you have a signed form with written permission to take photos and use photos. I don’t recommend that you share photos of daycare children, it can upset clients and turn off perspective clients. Plus do not share anything controversial on your Facebook page. Your business should stay neutral in sensitive topics, like politics or religion.
I use my page as an advertising tool not a parent communication tool because it’s public. Use pages to post pictures of your space, photos of activities/crafts/meals, articles you find relevant to your style of care, special events, and so much more. I never show kids faces in photos posted to Facebook. If you want a way to connect with parents, try a private group instead. Shutterfly offers private websites that you can setup for free to share photos with only people you invite
My policy on Twitter and Instagram is the same as this policy: keep your personal one private and create a separate daycare one. Don’t share full photos of kids.
Business Profile – I know several providers that have created a standard “personal profile” for their business. This means that parents would have to “friend” your business to be able to see anything posted unless your settings are set to public. There are benefits to this option, such as the ability to have clients “follow” you and privacy controls. Just be aware that Facebook is cracking down and deleting profiles that are businesses or non-real people more and more. You don’t want to try to login one day and find everything gone.
Personal Profile – My stance on this is somewhat against the grain in the world of home daycare providers. I do not recommend “friending” daycare clients. Over the years I’ve come to realize that many providers feel that this isn’t a big deal, that you should be Facebook friends with parents because home daycare providers and their clients have a “special” relationship. I disagree. You have a contract with these people, they are your clients not your friends. Would you share issues between you and your husband with your clients? Would you share health concerns facing members of your family? Parenting challenges? Political stance? After hours activities beyond what would would share with co-workers? I would hope that the answer to those is no. These are all things you commonly see people sharing across Facebook. It’s not about “hiding” who you are, it’s about presenting a professional image to your clients. You are caring for their children, the most precious things to them, they want to respect you and feel comfortable with you. Keeping work and personal lives separate is important for this.
The thing is that when you meet parents and agree to provide care for them through your interviewing process you aren’t actually learning anything about them or their personality. You are learning about their parenting style and child, but really you don’t know anything about the parents. You don’t know their political views, religion, family history, or personal issues because unless it relates to the care of their child they aren’t going to discuss this with you. You shouldn’t be sharing this with them either. I have clients that have been with me for years and I still have no idea where they stand on political issues or what religion they are and they don’t know where I stand on those issues. Granted, I may have a hunch where they fall on these issues from their behavior/mannerism over the years (or overshares from the kids 😉 ) but we don’t actually talk about it. They have no idea where I stand on those issues either. We talk for 5-15 minutes twice a day and most of that is focused on their child because this is a business relationship. They don’t need to see photos of my husband being a dork on vacation or me drinking a beer with my friends.
It’s not just political issues, these days people have can have an issue with anything. I know a provider that lost a family because she posted a picture of her husband taking her child to see a Disney movie and they (much to her surprise) were an anti-Disney family. The parent left because she felt their values were too different, she’d been with that provider for over a year. I gained a family once when they decided not to go with another provider, who they had been paying a monthly deposit to for 5 months, because she began posting rants about her husband on Facebook. It sounded to the parent that her child many be exposed to what she felt was a verbally abusive relationship. I’ve heard other stories of parents leaving over a provider’s political posts, parenting posts, family dynamics, and even random comments Facebook.
If you do chose to be Facebook friends with some of your clients I recommend waiting until you’ve known them for a least 6 months, preferably a year, and that you are aware of what you are posting. Also if you think you are posting something that is outside of what your clients would feel comfortable seeing you can edit the privacy and restrict them from seeing it. I personally view Facebook the same way I do my weekends, it’s my time and my space, not somewhere where I need to be open and transparent to clients. Opening my house to my clients is costing me enough or my privacy.
Closed/Secret Facebook Group – Personally, I think this is the best way to go about sharing photos with parents online. You are in charge of who is in the group and parents can feel comfortable knowing that photos of their children aren’t public. You can share upcoming events, parent reminders, activities, & photos with your all your clients on one easy spot. It’s also a great place for parents to be able to connect with each other, it fosters a sense of community, and truthfully some of these parents don’t know each other at all. Their kids spend 8-10 hours a day together but sometimes parents may never meet because of schedules. Having a closed/secret group allows parents to connect and at the same time stay up on all the activities of the daycare.
There are several places where you can connect with other daycare providers online, such as forums and Facebook groups, but I caution you to be careful on these sites. There is no doubt that these groups/forums can be a huge source of information, they are places where you can ask for and share advice with others in this field. It is definitely good to have a place where people understand the trials and tribulations of this career, a place where you can try to work through problems with others who have been there and post about your successes.
The problem with these groups is that, like any online venue that offers the idea of anonymity, they can morph into very negative situations. There will always be someone in these groups that disagrees with you and at some point you will have to deal with a troll or pot stirrer. People feel safe to judge and argue behind a keyboard so always remember to take these with a grain of salt. Plus if you are feeling burnt out on your daycare career stay away from the venting and complaining threads, these are not going to help you because you’re not seeing the good things about this career.
Also it’s important to remember that there is no real privacy in these groups. Online forums are public, I’ve seen numerous providers face negative repercussions for posting details about families in their care or sharing photos and the family finds out about it. I’ve also seen cases where providers get complaints filed on them with DHS or their licensor by people they don’t know from daycare provider groups on Facebook. I know these aren’t happening every day but it does happen and you don’t want to risk your business. If you have problems you need really advice about or problem clients you want to vent about, please don’t share photos of children or specifics about families. Honestly, I think it’s best to avoid complaining about clients in these public forums, it’s unprofessional and can lead to more drama than it is worth.
I honestly think that daycare providers should not be sharing photos of kids in their program on any public site. If you do just make sure that you use caution and that you have a parent’s permission in writing. If you plan to take photos of kids, even if you aren’t going to sure them on social media, your daycare contract should always include a clause about permission to take and use photos.
When you send images to parents or post photos in parent groups they may want to share those photos on their social media. If there are other children in the photo you need to remember (and remind parents) that not all parents want their child’s image shared across social media. That’s why I’m careful about what photos I send to parents and I have an “ask before sharing” policy on my private Facebook group.
This is a great way to share everything from crafts and activities to recipes and child development articles. Even daycare wishlists! Keep it kids activities and child development related. Parents don’t want to see your tattoo inspiration, renovation project ideas, or fitness goals so save those for your personal account.
Use During Daycare Hours
Supervision of the children should always be your number one priority. I know several providers that have their phones handy and check them as the day goes on, heck I’ve even done it sometimes, but it should not be at the expense of spending time supervising or doing activities with the children. Parents do not want to come in and find you on your phone or computer. They do not want to hear from their child that you are always on your phone. You’ll loose clients that way. Plus there have been numerous articles and reports written about the negative effects children face when adults in their lives pay too much attention to electronic devices.
Spending on electronic devices and social media sites can get you in trouble with your licensor as well. There are new rules and regulations popping up across the states in regards to use of mobile phones and other devices for social/entertainment use during daycare hours. You should check with your licensor about rules for your area.
You also should not be posting rants about your clients on social media, even if it is on a personal account and you are not friends with them. The most frequent issue I hear about with social media is backlash from when a provider posts negative comments or is venting a frustration about a family on her personal Facebook account only to have someone copy it and forward it to the family. Seriously, I see this happen several times a year. Don’t post it! No matter how mad you are. Realistically you need to avoid talking negatively about your daycare in general. Even if it seems like a harmless comment about your day, like “I’m so frustrated with the kids” or “these kids are driving me crazy today” can come back to haunt you. If comments like this are shared with your clients, or even your licensor, they can be twisted to mean that you are unable to provide safe care for the children.
I don’t want this to sound like all providers are complaining about their clients all the time. I know I’ve mentioned the issue of complaints and rants in several places above so it may sound like that’s what everyone is doing but really it’s not. For every negative comment I see there are hundreds of providers that are having great conversations about their job and with their clients, using social media effectively.
This post is written as a reminder so that we can keep those online communities focused on helping each other succeed and so that providers can fostering good relationships and reputations within their communities. The fact is daycare is a lonely job, the majority of in-home providers work alone for at least 10 hours a day, and some clients can be very challenging. Providers just need to be aware of how they handle their outlets for these challenging situations and avoid making social media etiquette mistakes that could harm their business or clients.
What are your rule for social media etiquette as a daycare provider?