Skip to main content

Social media as a communication platform

The introduction of a digital curriculum during the pandemic has increased the role of social media in parent-teacher communication, giving a wide range of parents the space to engage in school discussions and creating new opportunities and platforms for parent-teacher communication. The process began before COVID, but the emergence of digital education has truly consolidated the role of social networking sites in the life of schools. In this paper, I intend to present how social media is being used and its impact in the relationship between schools, students and parents, teacher-parent relationships,  parent communities and in turn, marginalised Roma youth and their parents. 

Nowadays, almost all classes have Messenger and Facebook groups. There are groups specifically for parents and groups for students. The groups are used for both formal (homework, absences, events, etc.) and informal (pictures, experiences, stories) communication by parents and teachers. Typically, Roma parents living in poverty-stricken communities do not use the KRÉTA system, leaving Facebook as the only alternative for teachers to communicate homework to parents in a clear and timely manner. This practice became widespread during COVID, but even before that, there were some who used it for knowledge transfer. 

For families living in poverty or on housing estates, Messenger and Facebook are also proving to be better alternatives to the telephone, as in these social groups, sim cards and therefore phone numbers, are often changed, rendering parents unreachable to teachers. On the other hand, Messenger and Facebook profiles do not change when a telephone number is updated, so the communication channel is preserved. School and pre-school social workers working in schools and Child Welfare Centres frequently use Messenger or Facebook to communicate with families or students. Typically, parents are reached via the child’s profile, and in many cases, communication is also conducted through the child. Therefore, it can be said that the use and the large-scale uptake of social media is helping schools and marginalised Roma parents to connect and communicate. Another important effect of communicating in the online space is that it has a democratising effect on school communities by allowing more people to join the discourse on school issues and by using various Facebook features to encourage users in expressing their opinions. It appears that people express their opinions more freely in online spaces than through face-to-face interactions.  

With the emergence of social media, however, personal boundaries are changing, as people’s Facebook profiles reveal completely different information than a face-to-face meeting or a phone call. In many cases, these online personas can generate prejudices among people from different cultural backgrounds. The other important aspect of the transformation of personal boundaries was that in several interviews, teachers mentioned that parents contact them on Messenger after working hours, at weekends or in the evening, while this was not the case previously with telephone correspondence.  

The examples and processes mentioned above have opened an exciting chapter in the communication between schools and marginalised Roma or other ethnic minority parents. On the one hand, it can render school communities more inclusive through its simplicity, accessibility and speed, while on the other hand, it can undermine personal connections and formal channels of communication (e.g., the Hungarian KRÉTA system).