More and more today you are hearing about social media policies that are in place not only to protect businesses and government agencies, but to protect schools and colleges.

In the news, the headline of the Florida Assistant State Attorney being suspended following the tragedy in Orlando after he posted a controversial Facebook post that was deplorable. Not only was this inappropriate (when will adults grow-up), it violated social media policy in their office.

In a recent study by ScienceDirect it was revealed that most college students (almost 70%)  are unaware if their school has social media policy in place and their keystrokes could get them in trouble–even suspended or expelled.

  • Almost 70% of students don’t know if their university has a social media policy.
  • 78% of student are opposed to universities monitoring student social media.
  • Students are more tolerant of student athletes’ social media being monitored.

In June 2016 PEW Research released Social Media in the Workplace.

With the many studies showing that people are connected through social media a majority of the time, it stands to reason, some of that time is likely on an employer’s time/dime. So how are they dealing with this?

Let’s review why employees are checking in with social media during business hours – it’s not always personal:

With 24% of them wanting to build stronger professional connections, 12% are using it for work related issues, and another 12% also noted questions related to their employment — social media is a way of expanding your knowledge and network, that can be an asset to the employer.

However – when it comes to the pitfalls of it, according to the study (like the headlines we’ve read), it’s when we have to find the right balance, like we do in all things tech.

WorkPlaceMany employers do have social media policies in place, and employees should be informed of them.

Many workers report that their employers have policies about social media use on the job, or about how employees may present themselves in various online spaces. Half of all full-time and part-time workers (51%) say their workplace has rules about using social media while at work (45% say their employer does not have these policies), while 32% report that their employer has policies about how employees may present themselves on the internet in general (63% say their employer does not have these policies).

Policies that regulate how employers present themselves online outside of work may be expected to influence whether these workers use social media at all. However, this does not seem to be the case: Fully 77% of workers report using social media regardless of whether their employer has such a policy in place.

At the same time, there is some evidence that workplace policies concerning social media use while on the job may have an effect. Workers whose companies have policies regulating social media use at work are less likely to use social media in certain ways:

  • 30% of workers whose companies have an at-work social media policy say they use social media while on the job to take a break from work, compared with 40% of workers whose employers that don’t.
  • 20% of workers whose employers have at-work social media policies say they use social media to stay connected to family and friends while on the job, compared with 35% of workers whose social media use is not regulated at work.
  • Only 16% of workers whose companies regulate social media at work say they use social media while working to get information that’s helpful to their job, compared with 25% of those whose workplaces have no such regulations.

Social media is a great way to stay connected to friends and family, however everyone needs to remember unless you do have a family emergency, checking in online should limited to your breaks.

It’s not any different than what we are expecting from our children in schools. It starts at the top — you must be the role model. If they see you are busy cyber-socializing during the day, when you are at work, what message does that send to your teenager or tween?

Lead by example mom and dad.

A relatively modest share of workers say they have incorporated specific social media platforms into their day-to-day work lives:

  • 19% of workers say they ever use Facebook for work-related purposes.
  • 14% ever use LinkedIn for work-related purposes.
  • 3% ever use Twitter for work-related purposes.
  • 9% use a social media tool provided by their employer for work-related purposes.
  • 5% use social media platforms other than the ones listed above for work-related purposes.

But among the group that answered yes to at least one of the items above – that is, the subset of workers who use at least one social media tool for job-related purposes – large shares see certain positive or beneficial impacts on their job performance:

  • 78% of workers who use social media platforms for work-related purposes say social media is useful for networking or finding new job opportunities.
  • 71% of these workers say social media is useful for staying in touch with others in their field.
  • 56% say it is useful for connecting with experts.
  • 51% say it is useful for getting to know their co-workers on a personal basis.
  • 46% say it is useful for finding information they need to do their job.

On the other hand, these workers are divided on the utility of social media in other respects, especially when it comes to the impact of social media use on their own job performance:

  • 56% of workers who use social media platforms for work-related purposes agree that social media distracts from the work they need to do, with 30% agreeing strongly.
  • 54% of these workers agree that social media breaks help them recharge at work. A statistically similar proportion (46%) disagree that social media breaks help them recharge while on the job.
  • 51% of these workers agree that social media use at work lets them see too much information about their coworkers; 47% disagree with this statement.

Social media can recharge, excite and amuse people — but what happens if you’re checking in and you find out bad news online (which is where we see 56% saying  social media is a distraction while 30% agreeing strongly)? Life is not always full of cheerful news feeds. Will your work for the day suffer? What about those that are on the job hunt? Keep in mind, public wi-fi’s are not secure. Wait until you get home. The stat of 51% of workers believe that social media usage allows them too see too much about each other…. Well — there’s a way to limit that — keep your sharing online to a minimum. There won’t be much to see — personally that is. Share with care, knowing you are likely working with curious co-workers. 

To read the full report – visit PEW Research Center.

In conclusion, a majority (56%) of these workers believe that using social media ultimately helps them with their job performance. Only 22% believe it hurts them while 16% feel that it doesn’t have much of an impact either way. 4% can see both the benefits and the drawbacks.

Moral of the study, find out if your workplace or school has a social media policy. It’s good to know.