The Role of Social Media

“The impact can be really significant for bereaved pupils; even though you might not think young pupils have access to social media, the messages are still getting communicated around class, potentially, or in the school.”

A school cannot ‘contain’ information that is being shared within the community; it will ‘leak out’. Significant events, particularly bad news, can spread indiscriminately and rapidly through social media. When a death affects the school community, it is important to communicate sensitively with the family to clarify the situation and find out their wishes. The school can then take the family’s preferences into consideration when they respond.

Consider the implication of social media for pupils in your school:

  • Inappropriate discovery of sad news before hearing the information directly.
  • Children and young people accessing information without the support of trusted adults.
  • Rumours and misinformation about the circumstances of the death.
  • Thoughtless comments and messages.

For a bereaved pupil, depending on their age and access to social media, they may see and read things which are very personal and upsetting. It is important to remember that even if they seem too young to access this information at the time, they may find it later or be told by someone who has seen or heard about it. Find out what the pupil has been told; encourage those caring for the pupil to have open and honest discussions in age-appropriate language.

There may be additional media attention if the death was traumatic, violent, sudden or unexplained. A school should have a designated member of staff to respond to any enquiries.

Staff should also be aware of existing policies which cover their own use of social media.