Connecting with families using social media

Building trusted communication and collaboration between teachers, staff and families is essential in early childhood education. In fact, it is part of the National Quality Framework (NQF) due to its significant impact on children’s emotional and physical development. But what role should social media have in this space? IEU journalist Jessica Willis investigates.

Research shows there are more challenges to forming and maintaining connections with families in early childhood education than ever before (Fan and Yost, 2019).

At the same time there has been a steady decrease in family involvement in their children’s early learning (Fan and Yost, 2019).

Traditional means of communicating with families such as face-to-face interactions, phone calls, emails and newsletters, can be sporadic and ineffective with increasingly busy parent and carer schedules. These forms of communication can also add to the workload pressures of staff.

Some employers have started experimenting with the use of social media tools to overcome this. Meanwhile, a slowly growing body of academic research is looking into the benefits and complications of using these tools in the early childhood education sector.

Is adapting to widespread use of social media resolving this issue or does it present more complications than benefits?

Is social media the solution?

‘Social media’ is any form of electronic communication, such as websites for social networking, through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages and other content. (Mirriam-Webster, 2021).

Major social media platforms include Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Phone or computer-based applications (apps) and software such as Storypark and ClassDojo can also be considered ‘social media’ as they connect teachers, students and families in an online school community.

A recent study from the University of Tasmania explored the willingness of families and early childhood education staff to use social media for building better collaborative relationships and more open and effective communication (Fan and Yost, 2019).

It found that while there was an overall interest in adopting social media tools by both groups, concerns were raised over issues such as privacy, confidentiality and time constraints.

The findings reinforced the value of open, trusted and effective communication between staff and families and confirmed the barriers hindering family interactions with staff.

According to two staff members who participated in the study, “some working parents spent little time at the centre during child drop off and collection times” and “due to parents’ busy work schedules they might not be able to make and receive telephone calls, or reply to emails during working hours”. (Fan and Yost, 2019, p136.)

This observation is one many of our members likely relate to.

Participants acknowledged that social media, which offers both instant and flexible communication, could have benefits in building and maintaining engagement with families in their child’s learning.

Apps built for early childhood pedagogy

In recent years, the development and introduction of apps for digital pedagogical documentation has occurred in many early childhood education workplaces – allowing student learnings to be recorded and shared directly with families through platforms such as Storypark.

These platforms have been shown to foster communication and trust between teachers, staff and families when the platform has been designed specifically with early childhood pedagogy in mind (Lucas, 2019).

This, in turn, facilitates better outcomes in young students – not only in their learning but general wellbeing with families better understanding what and why their child is learning and how it is connected to the curriculum.

The key for effective use of these platforms is ensuring:

•the purpose of the communication is clear (eg sharing and explaining learning outcomes of a specific student to their family)

  • the mode is appropriate and accessible for all users
  • the quality of the content is relevant and professional
  • the frequency and proportion of communication is reasonable, and
  • employees have the time and knowledge to use the platform.

IEU-QNT Organiser Caryl Rosser said while there can be positive outcomes, it should not mean workload is doubled or duplicated.

“It is important that employers ensure all staff receive quality professional development and training for the platform chosen, to be completed within their hours of duty.

“Communication and documentation should always occur during paid working hours and employers need to provide the necessary devices and accounts to employees.

“Some IEU members have had issues with the additional pressure that comes with the expectation of recording and uploading data throughout the day and ensuring each child receives ‘equal’ attention.

“We have also had cases with duplication of work adding to the workload burden – for example recording data in hard copy and digital portfolios, or repeating messages across different platforms because different families prefer different communication channels.

“Members should contact our union for any concerns over social media or software use, workload or hours of duty,” she said.

Platforms blurring private and personal relationships

If social media tools – such as a closed Facebook group or private group chat – are being used by your workplace to communicate and collaborate with the school community, employers must have clear social media policies.

They must ensure all employees and family members understand and follow the policy.

Caryl said the policy must consider and protect staff, students and families.

“Employers have a duty of care to take reasonable steps to prevent physical and psychological injury to those in their care and this includes providing appropriate support to employees who may be experiencing bullying and harassment online,” she said.

“The personal accounts or devices of employees should never be used for work purposes.

“Employees should also not be expected to communicate with families or share content to the chosen platform outside of their paid working hours,” Caryl said.

“Platforms such as Facebook carry a high privacy and confidentiality risk – even in closed community groups or ‘private’ chats.

“Members should remember that what is published online or messaged electronically, even with the strictest privacy guidelines, can readily be made public by a friend, follower or recipient.”

Our union would advise members to steer clear of these types of platforms for the purposes of professional communication and relationship building with students’ families.

For any concerns relating to social media use, workload or hours of duty, IEU members should contact their relevant union branch or organiser.

Key issues
Communication and documentation should occur during paid work hours and fit into your hours of duty.
Employers need to have clear social media and digital platform policies.
Employees should never use their own personal accounts or devices for work-related communication or documentation.
Privacy and confidentiality should be a top priority in all communications, with clear policy in place which protects employees, students and families.
Employers need to provide quality PD and training in any new platform or software being used in the workplace.
Accessibility needs to be considered when choosing a platform or software.
Contact our union if you have any concerns over social media or software use, workload or hours of duty.

References 2021. Definition Of SOCIAL MEDIA. [online] Available at:

Fan, S and Yost, H 2019. Keeping connected: exploring the potential of social media as a new avenue for communication and collaboration in early childhood education. International Journal of Early Years Education, 27(2), pp.132-142.

Lucas, F 2019. The Use Of Pedagogical Documentation Technology - Phd Reflections | Sector. [online] Sector. Available at: