The Sad Reality of Teacher/Student Facebook Communication

People who draw attention the benefits of teacher/student Facebook communication miss the point. There is no doubt that there are some fantastic innovations through social media that would allow teachers to respond to the educational needs of their students. But all benefits go out the window when one considers the dangers.

High school teacher Jennifer Kennedy has a prepared response for students who send her “friend” requests on Facebook.

No. Or, at least not until they graduate.

It’s a rule she said she shares with fellow teachers at Sacramento New Technology High School.

Increasingly, school district officials across the region and throughout the country are coming up with their own guidelines for what kind of online and electronic communication is acceptable between teachers and students.

Is it OK to be Facebook friends?

What about direct messages on Twitter?

Or text messaging from personal cellphones?

“We have a generation of kids who communicate this way,” said Kennedy, who teaches sophomores and seniors. “If you say absolutely no Facebook or texting, you are cutting off an important relationship with students.”

In districts with policies against such behavior, officials have said social media sites blur the line between the professional and private lives of teachers. And then there are the rare but widely reported allegations of abuse initiated or intensified through social media.

These allegations of abuse spoil any chance teachers and students have of communicating via social media sites. Perhaps this if for the best.
What is your opinion on this issue?

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8 Responses to “The Sad Reality of Teacher/Student Facebook Communication”

  1. Mike Feurstein Says:

    I say absolutely not with my elementary school kids, but I get more lax with my middle school summer video program kids and my high schoolers. Here’s why:

    I don’t use Facebook as anything other than a site with updates on my projects (mostly youth-oriented) and also posting links in support of other artists. I don’t complain, post pics of parties, or entertain off-color jokes on my wall. So in fact my Facebook is more like a website about my projects, which would be freely accessible to any child anywhere if it were just a Mike-dot-com.

    Your choice to “Friend” students is entirely up to how you manage your Facebook, I think. Parents are entrusting their kids to you in person every day, so be just as transparent with your online presence as you would your daily classroom presence. You have an image to uphold anyway, being an educator.

    For my middle schoolers, it gives them the opportunity to extend my classroom: chat with questions about how to green screen, or post links to their recent short videos for feedback. For my high schoolers, the same thing. In fact I prefer the public wall-posted questions over private student emails – keeps everything visible.

    I still don’t link to elementary schoolers because they’re too young for Facebook no matter how it’s used. I do link to their parents, however. It’s a useful tool, Facebook. I think many people forget that, and instead use it as an exhibitionist showroom of things they wouldn’t even do in front of an open window.

    • Michael G. Says:

      I am of course an elementary school teacher so the percpective of a middle school educator is very interesting. I also think that the wondeful film work that you do perhaps makes you an exception to the rule when it comes to Facebook access.

  2. John Tapscott Says:

    In a perfect world none of this would be a problem. In reality there are those who abuse the system. There are adults who will use whatever means at their disposal to groom children for their own vile purposes. The sad fact is that some of them are teachers. Some of my ex-students have added me as a friend on facebook. They are all adults now and still call me Mr Tapscott, indicating their lasting respect. Some of these were in a special class for intellectual disability. There is nothing disabled about these kids. All of them work for a living. Attitude trumps IQ every time.

    I think Jennifer Kennedy (above) is on the right track.

  3. Nick Says:

    Great post and interesting question – one which is going to become more and more of a problem as the ‘facebook generation’ moves into teaching.

    My personal policy is not to have a facebook page myself – therefore rendering the issue moot. I know that the school policy is that teachers should not have students as friends on facebook. This is easy for some teachers but for others who may be related to the students in question (particularly in smaller communities) you can imagine this becomes quite difficult. Likewise if your son/ daughter attends school where you teach and you have them as a friend on your facebook – that enables their friends (your students) to access your page.

    i don’t think there are any easy answers unfortunately.

    • Michael G. Says:

      Thanks Nick. You have raised some scenarios I haven’t considered. Are you worried about your students accessing you private conversations or are the privacy setting good enough to prevent them from doing so?

  4. Nick Says:

    From my limited experience with facebook it seems as if the privacy settings are good enough to prevent anyone you haven’t friended from accessing a private conversation. However I fail to understand why you would conduct a private conversation on a public forum like facebook in the first place…. ? Anyway – my concern with the scenarios i described above is that no policy – however strict, is going to be 100% perfect. Sometime in the near future there needs to be a way to amalgamate facebook INTO teaching but have all the privacy and child protection issues addressed. I don’t know what that something is going to be but i hope it comes soon. i can see such potential with this technology – particularly with senior students as they work on assessments etc… much like how tutors at University will conduct conversations with you on Uni message boards.

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