Guidance on using chat groups

As we begin to use social media and online communication more than ever, we explore some of the risks and dangers students may encounter when using certain mediums.

Social media is a now a part of everyday life and is a great tool to enhance students’ learning experience through the sharing of knowledge, the discussion of ideas and the development of professional and social networks. It can be a useful part of your learning experience to set up course ‘chat’ groups on social media, for example on Whatsapp, Moodle or Facebook.

However, despite the opportunities presented by social media, there are some risks to be mindful of. Sometimes the informality of social media can encourage us to be less cautious than we would be using other more traditional methods of communicating and interacting. These social media guidelines are aimed at students who use, or intend to use, social media as part of their studies.  We also have a Social Media Policy which can be found here:

Top ten tips

  1. Be clear on the purpose of the group – for example to share ideas about a theory
  2. Remember that this is an academic community – although you may be friendly with people on your course, it is important to use appropriate language
  3. Be considerate of others – be careful about what content is shared particularly if it could cause offense or be upsetting. (i.e. videos and pictures etc.)
  4. Think before you post – take time to create an appropriate response as once you post a message then you cannot take it back.  Don’t argue online.
  5. Be careful about sharing too much personal information.
  6. Always ask permission before sharing private details about your fellow students. Such details could include private contact details, pictures or details of private discussions.
  7. If you see something on a social media group that concerns you, you can report it to your programme director or on:
  8. Chat groups can be great for debating and thinking through ideas.  Don’t use social media to attack others who might disagree and remember to respect other people’s privacy and feelings. If you break the law on social media sites (for example by posting something defamatory) you will be personally responsible.
  9. If someone asks you not to message them directly, respect their request.
  10. Remain mindful of the College’s Dignity at Work and Study Policy and the Social Media Policy.

Although staff at Birkbeck will not monitor the groups, the College will:

  • Ensure these guidelines are accessible to staff and students.
  • Investigate complaints regarding students’ behaviour on social media in line with the University’s Student Disciplinary Procedures. (Please note that social media is not recognised as an official channel via which to make a formal complaint).
  • Take disciplinary action where inappropriate behaviour is exhibited in accordance with the College’s Student Discipline Procedures and Dignity at Work and Study Policy.
  • Periodically review and update the guidelines and any other associated policy and guidelines. Staff and students will be notified of any significant changes.

Any misconduct on social media will be dealt with through the Student Discipline Procedures. This could include:

  • Foul and abusive language
  • Discrimination
  • Violence and threats
  • Bullying and harassment
  • Hateful speech
  • Inappropriate graphic content
  • Inflammatory comments – those arousing or intending to arouse feelings of anger or violence
  • Deliberately misleading or defamatory comments – those damaging the good reputation of someone, slanderous or libellous
  • Phishing and spam.



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