Responsible use of Social Media (& digital communications)

Used well, Social Media tools such as WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter can add to your learning experience at university, and make you more employable on graduation. But used poorly, they can cause lasting damage to you and others. This page, and others linked from here will help you understand your responsibilities, the impact of your digital footprint, the preventative and strategic actions you can take, and it will signpost you to further reading. 

Note: in this guidance, the term Social Media is taken to include: 

  • social networks (eg Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)

  • messaging services (eg WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat) 

  • user generated content on websites (eg commenting, liking, contributing to blogs, news sites) 

  • it can also be taken include other forms of digital communication (eg Texts) 

  • and how you engage with University online processes (eg during online enrollment) 

Your responsibility 

By enrolling as a student at Sheffield Hallam University, you agreed to abide by the University’s Student Rules and Regulations. The IT Regulations and the Code of Conduct are specifically relevant, and ignorance is no defence if things go wrong, so follow the links below and read them carefully.

IT regulations

The IT regulations may not explicitly mention Social Media, but don’t let this fool you, they do directly relate to: 

any use of personally used Social Media (and email and text) tools on University property, and/or using University WiFi 

any use of Social Media tools that are provided, supported or licensed by the University, and their use in a University support or learning context

Disciplinary Regulations and the Code of Conduct 

The Code of Conduct is part of the Student Disciplinary Regulations. The code sets out the standard of conduct expected of students, and this includes the use or misuse of social media and related digital communication tools. 

It talks about not using social media to abuse or intimidate others, words and media can be easily mis-interpreted, captured and shared. With this in mind, be respectful of the dignity and rights of others, regardless of their background. Read the Regulations in full at

When on placement or in employment, you must also act in accordance with your employer’s codes and regulations. 

What are the consequences of behaving irresponsibly online? 

As well as damaging your own reputation and potentially harming others, you may be subject to formal disciplinary procedures and you could lose your place at the University. 

What counts as irresponsible? 

Use your common sense. If it’s hurtful, defamatory, libellous or inappropriate in the physical world, it is online too. Irresponsible behaviour includes: 

  • making derogatory comments about individuals or organisations

  • sharing confidential information about others 

  • sharing sexually explicit, racist, homophobic or inflammatory material 

  • flaming or trolling – deliberately provoking arguments, or disruptive behaviour 

  • making, or repeating/reposting allegations about others 

All of this applies

.. even if you believe it to be a completely private communication 

.. even if you believe the other party are not identifiable in the communication

.. even if your intention is to joke, or be ironic

And remember, as our use of digital communication evolves, so do the laws surrounding misconduct. 

These are the golden rules: 

1. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face in a public place, don’t say it online

2. Equally, if you wouldn’t want your employer or granny to see it, don’t say it

3. Drinking and posting is never a good idea

4. Don’t trust privacy settings. If your content is visible, it can be copied or shared by anyone.