A survey involving over 140 Victorian school principals was used to provide an insight into the professions consumption habits of social media.

The paper Why schools are spooked by social media attempts to explore why schools are underrepresented in their use of social media as a method of communicating and engaging their community. Research has shown that 43% of small businesses in Australia (socialmedianews.com.au July 14, 2010) have attracted new customers through social media networks and that over 70 percent of Australian Not for Profits are using social media, yet schools have almost no presence in the space.

The title of the study ‘why schools are spooked by social media’ infers that schools are frightened by social media. Not surprisingly, business has been too. Anecdotally, discussions have revealed a concern about the potential for a parent to run amok in a blog as well as the spectre that has become Facebook. On an all too frequent basis, Facebook horror stories dominant the medium’s publicity in main stream press. In almost all cases, bad Facebook publicity involves a student (although the activity was in private time) which means schools have first-hand experience of the dark side of social media.

A number of conversations with principals during a seminar series conducted in May 2010 uncovered a general lack of awareness of social media controls and most importantly a lack of awareness of the commercial sector’s successes in building online communities through social media.

This paper is part science, part expert commentary and a road map for schools contemplating using social media to engage their community.