Social Media Guidelines: 13 and Older

Create Your Digital Image

Align Your Image with Your Goals

Your digital footprint is the impression you leave online. Any time you’ve commented on someone’s tweet, post, or picture you leave an impression behind. This happens In Real Life too. But online comments and images leave a permanent record. After all, IRL people may forget the mean thing you said or did—especially if you’ve apologized to them. But your online actions remain long after you post an apology or click “delete.” What’s more, there’s no guarantee that people will even find—or read— your apology within a given thread. Instead, they’ll judge you by the first comment they see.

First Impressions

That’s why it’s important to be thoughtful about what you share online and consider how it would look to others—both those who know you and those who don’t. After all, many colleges and employers search social media before accepting students and hiring workers. And what they see about you in an online search may be the first—and only—impression they get of you.

How Tos

You can use social media to show your interests in positive, and academic, ways. You can:

  • Comment on articles and posts in a smart way
  • Ask others for more information about their post
  • Tweet to experts about current events
  • Highlight your accomplishments—share what was involved on that class project, concert, or community activity that you did.

Stand Behind Your Words

You should always take responsibility for what you post on all social media. While you may think that using a fake name prevents posts from becoming part of your footprint, there are still ways to link that info to the person who posted it (for example, through an internet address or other specific information). Be your best self online. This means posting truthful information. It also means being responsible about what you say.

Families Can Be Helpful Partners

Did you know that your parents are responsible for what you do online? That’s why it’s important to share with them what you’re doing—and why. Here are a few ways you can do that:

  • Share your digital footprint with your family and see what they think
  • Discuss with your family what information is fine to share and what should remain private
  • Think about your family’s rules

Of course, it’s a two-way street—ask to see what your family wants to post about you your siblings, and your friends. Come up with a set of rules everyone can live with.

Keep in mind that because technology is always changing, you may know more about social media than your parents. You may want to show your family members what you’ve learned about creating a digital image.


“If you want to be taken seriously and professionally, you must have an online identity that matches your purpose. If you want respect and credibility online, be deliberate about choosing a profile image, content, and name that represents the “you” you want the world to see.” – Monique Coleman Actress, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist

Post Responsibly – Be Mindful of Your Audience

Social Media Use for School is an Extension of Your Classroom

When you use social media for school activities, such as for an assignment, treat the work as an extension of your school work. Remember in most cases, the same rules apply online as they do in school. For example, if you would not make fun of a classmate in English class, do not do it online either. For school-related social media, do not tag student posts, photos, or videos unless your teacher and the student gives you permission. This will help make sure people it is not visible to people who should not see it.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

People of all ages sometimes act differently on social media than they would “face-to-face.” This is because they may think that since they are not talking in person they won’t be blamed for their actions. This is not the case. Because of the nature of the digital world, you should be as responsible, if not more, when online. Since you never know who will be reading what you share online, always assume that anyone could. Ask yourself if you would be okay with a parent or relative seeing it. If not, think about a better way to say what you want to say.

Pause Before You Post

Once a comment is posted online, you cannot later say, “Never mind.” It may seem funny or harmless when you post it, but it could hurt someone’s feelings. Take time to think about whether a post will be hurtful or embarrassing or whether it could affect yours or someone’s future. For example, if you post a mean or nasty comment online because you were mad, this may end up making you a bad choice in the mind of a future employer or school. Online posts can never be completely deleted. This means it is important to make sure that each post is something you want to live with.


“Using social media with my students has helped me strengthen relationships with them. It has also enabled me to understand and support my students as bullying issues at school or online bubble up. Students know that if there is a problem, I am here to help them, not just in the classroom but also online.” – Anna Dawidowska, Teacher, Grover Cleveland High School, New York City Department of Education

Consider the Consequences

Personal Use of Social Media May Have an Effect at School

Most of the time it is easy to tell whether a social media use is school-related or personal. Other times it’s hard to tell the difference. Sometimes, personal social media use, even afterschool, may result in trouble at school. When this happens, the school may need to get involved. This could include disciplinary action such as a parent conference or suspension. It is important to remember that hurtful actions outlined in the Discipline Code also apply to online communication. To be safe, be in control of what you do online, even if it is during personal time. For example, if your classmate is tagging you in rude Tweets, do not answer in the same way. Instead, stay positive, do what you know is right. Consider blocking or reporting this person to an adult.

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Protect Yourself

There are many ways to protect yourself online. For example, only accept friend requests from people you know. You may interact online with people you have never met in person. If you do, use caution/ Find out as much as you can about the person. Ask a parent for permission if you plan to meet one of these people face to face. Also, while it is important to be yourself online, remember not to post too many personal details (such as where you live or your social security number). Sharing that information can be dangerous. Do not share passwords with friends. Also, be sure not to let computers save passwords. Always log off when you have finished using a site. Do not just click out of the browser.

Adjust Your Privacy Settings

Privacy settings are automatically set by social media providers. This is where you decide who can see your posts, how information is linked, and what data is available to the public. Each social media platform has different privacy setting defaults. These defaults may even change those settings without telling you. You should decide whether to change the default settings to make your posts more or less private. For example, if you are creating a personal site to promote a social or political issue, you most likely want to make that site open to everyone. However, if you want to discuss a project you are doing in class, it may be better to limit access only to a small group of classmates.


“When I apply for part-time work or internships during college, I make sure employers know to look at my digital footprint, which demonstrates that I have the skill set they want. I ensure my resume contains links to social media sites. This is fantastic for showing what I’m capable of and for giving employers background about me and my work.” – Armond McFadden, Chelsea Vocational High School Alumni

Take Threats of Cyberbullying Seriously

Cyberbullying Takes Many Forms

Cyberbullying is the use of online technology to hurt or harm other people. Examples include:

Sometimes, it may be difficult to draw the line. It can be confusing to tell the difference between a harmless joke and one which goes too far and becomes hurtful. Chancellor’s Regulation A-832 has a complete overview of what behavior counts as cyberbullying:

Report the Behavior and Get Help

If you are being cyberbullied or know about someone else being cyberbullied, report the behavior and get help. You can report it to a trusted adult such as a family member or school staff. If you don’t know which school staff member to contact, you can reach out to your school’s Respect for All Liaison (RFA). You can find their contact information on the RFA posters. If no adult is available and you or someone else is in danger, call 911.

The Discipline Code and Chancellor’s Regulations A-830 and A-832 also discuss what to do when you become aware of harassing behavior. Students who violate those rules may be subject to discipline.

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Know What to Do

It is important not to answer or forward any harassing or bullying content. “De-friend,” block, or remove people who send inappropriate content. It may also be a good idea to save harassing messages. This proof could be important to show an adult if the behavior continues. If the behavior is school-related, print out the messages. Provide them to the school when you report the incident. Do not email them. If you have questions about reporting incidents, DOE’s Respect for All materials provide more information about the support and reporting guidelines to your school. You can also send an email to


“At our school, students know that if there is ever any drama that carries over to the online world, our teachers and principal have our back. We can go right to them if need be. When we do, I don’t know how they do it exactly, but they make sure they always put an end to it. This makes for a more positive online experience for all of us.” – Kevin Torres, Hudson High School

Visit the infohub for  staff social media guidelines.