Ethics Guidelines for Social Media

This document has been created as a supplement to the code of ethics. As it is a supplement, it is not intended to replace the code of ethics already in place but rather provide guidelines for our professional behavior.  Below are listed just a few of the many scenarios that occur. This document does not cover all possible issues. These guidelines are meant to be just those… guidelines. 

Social media is defined as any form of online publication or presence that allows end users to engage in multi-directional conversations in or around the content on the website. A large percentage of internet traffic is centered on the use of social media. Social media includes, but is not limited to: Facebook, MySpace, Ning, Twitter, Second Life, YouTube, Linked In, blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, document sharing and email.

With the increasing use of social media in our society, the Professional Skaters Association determined it was an opportune time to set forth Social Media Guidelines for Figure Skating Professionals.

The spirit of social media is about leveraging the positive ways in which email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. can benefit us as professionals. Determining how to balance personal and professional information is important. In all aspects of social media, the individual should keep in mind that everyone does have the right to self-expression; however, such expressions can have possible consequences, both positive and negative.

 Things to Be Considered

  1. Communications with minors (e.g., notes, email and internet exchanges, telephone calls) must be for professional reasons only.

  2. Coaches should inform and gain permission from the parents of their athletes for the various ways they plan to communicate with their skaters: personal cell phone, email, social networking tools, etc.

  3. Coaches should not email athletes from a private or personal email account. All correspondence should occur via a work email account (or one identified as such).

  4. Adolescents should be blind copied on group emails.

  5. If utilizing a social networking tool to communicate with athletes, coaches should create a separate account for coaching interactions. (i.e., the account that is used for personal interaction should not be used for interactions with their adolescent athletes.)

  6.  Coaches should consider carefully before “friending” a skater who is a student of another coach or a parent of a skater who is a student of another coach.  If you are communicating via social media with the client of another coach, full disclosure should be given to the primary coach and the parent.  There may be rare occasions, such as club affairs or for the purposes of planning an activity, which one coach may communicate with another coach’s clientele.  However, coaches need to be mindful of the perception created and those problems that occur when communicating with another coach’s client or parents.

  7. When coaches are online posting comments, pictures, etc., remember that the readers can be clients, potential clients, past/current/future employers, friends, family, and in general, people who look to coaches as role models.

  8. Coaches should refrain from discussing or making comments that may be interpreted as a slur or are demeaning towards another individual, especially another coach. Coaches should not use commentary deemed defamatory, obscene, proprietary, inflammatory or libelous. Coaches should exercise caution with regards to exaggeration, colorful language, guesswork, obscenity, copyrighted materials, legal conclusions, and derogatory remarks or characterizations.

  9. Coaches should exercise good judgment. This is paramount regardless of personal opinion.

  10. Coaches should consider whether a particular posting puts their effectiveness as a teacher/mentor/coach at risk.

  11. Coaches are expected to act responsibly and ethically; post meaningful and respectful comments; honor differences, and think before clicking the post or send button.  Coaches should refrain from discussing students, judges, officials, parents, fellow coaches, or publicly criticizing a rink, club, U.S. Figure Skating, ISI, or PSA policies or personnel.

  12. Coaches are expected to represent themselves truthfully and refrain from picking fights.  Coaches are expected to respect whomever they are addressing.

  13. Coaches’ online behavior should reflect the same standard of honesty, respect and consideration we would have in a face-to- face interaction. Social media solicitation remains solicitation and is unethical.

  14. Coaches should know the media they are using, and know how to set privacy settings, etc. Coaches should post only what they want the world to see. Imagine their students, their parents, and a club or rink administrator visiting the page. It is not like posting something to a web site or blog and then realizing the story or photo should be taken down. On a social networking page, basically, once something is posted, it may be available even after it is removed from the page.

  15. Coaches are expected to own and repair any mistakes made online. Do this in a new post; do not just correct the old post.

  16. Coaches should apply “the 24 hour rule” when upset or under the influence (i.e. wait 24 hours before posting anything that was written in anger or disappointment).  Posted comments, pictures, etc., cannot be retrieved once they are sent or posted and can be used by a complaining party should a grievance be filed. 

  17. Due to security risks, coaches should be cautious when installing the external applications that work with the social networking site. Examples of these sites are calendar programs and games.

  18. Coaches should run updated malware protection to avoid infections of spyware and adware that social networking sites might place on a computer.

  19. Coaches should set profile security and privacy settings. At a minimum, coaches should have all privacy settings set to “only friends” or “friends of friends.” Setting a privacy setting to “networks and friends” opens the content to a large group of unknown people. A coach’s privacy and the privacy of his or her family may be at risk. Unknown people may be looking at all that is on a page

  20. Coaches should stay informed and cautious in the use of all new networking technologies.


PSA Grievance Procedure Rule #15 – Retaliatory Action and Social Media

A) It is a violation of the PSA Code of Ethics for any person against whom discipline has been filed to take any action directly or through third parties against any other person who participated in any official capacity especially in the determination of discipline proceedings.
B) It is a violation of the PSA Code of Ethics for any coach, U.S. Figure Skating official, or U.S. Figure Skating official who is also a coach, to use any form of communication or engage in any acts which reasonably could give the appearance of the intent to solicit a business or personal relationship with any skater or a parent (or legal guardian) of a skater, who is not the current student of that coach or with a skater who is competing in a competition in which the U.S. Figure Skating official is officiating.


Please remember, it is solicitous to recruit skaters using any form of social media.  Be considerate, be respectful, and remember that coaches are role models to many people.


April 2011