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Teachers, Students and Facebook

I’ve been thinking for a while now about teachers, students and Facebook. After speaking to approximately 400 students over the past few months, I started wondering about their interaction with their teachers.  Then when I started talking with school administrators, I learned that, in fact, teachers and students were engaging on social media sites such as Facebook.  After all, social media sites such as Facebook are part of our lives and certainly the lives of our teenagers.  Facebook can be another way for classmates to share, work on projects together and communicate with teachers.  This presents an interesting quandary.  Do we want minors and adults communicating on Facebook?  Are teachers properly trained as to what is appropriate? Impersonating someone on Facebook with a “false” profile is so easy to do – how can any student be sure they are truly engaging with their teacher?

If a teacher wishes to engage her students in communication via Facebook, it would seem that a Closed Group might be the best way to go.  Then the teacher could determine who joins the group and keep it for the purpose of communicating among students in a particular class. Friending a student on a teacher’s personal profile page is another story altogether.  In 2011, Ontario, Canada forbid teachers from befriending students on their personal Facebook pages. School districts in the United States are also jumping on this bandwagon and I think that’s a good idea.  There really is no reason for a teacher to be “friends” with one of their students on their personal Facebook profile.  I can’t understand why a teacher wouldn’t want to keep her/his professional life separate from her/his personal life on Facebook.

Facebook doesn’t help the situation by sticking to the one profile per person rule.  I have learned that in some cases, teachers set up secondary Facebook profiles that are only for the purpose of relating to students and keep their primary personal profile very private.  Not only does this violate Facebook’s Terms of Service but it still begs the question, should teachers and students be “friends” on Facebook?  If the student initiates the “friend request” teachers should not accept it and head it off by letting their students know on day one of the school term that they will NOT accept students as friends.  If social media sites such as Facebook are to be part of the classroom learning, then a Closed Group would make sense. However, who is regulating that Closed Group?  Are Principals and Assistant Principals aware of what is being communicated?  What if a student is not on Facebook but the rest of the class is?  Are we suggesting that we “force” students to engage on Facebook?

To make matters worse, it seems that teachers are showing a shocking lack of common sense when it comes to Posting about their students on their personal Facebook pages.  I am amazed at how many people do not control the Privacy Settings of their Facebook pages and do not think before they post.  Just today I was reading about a teacher in Torrance, CA who was immediately removed from her special education classroom due to negative comments posted on Facebook about a student and that student’s parents.  Apparently, this happens on an all too often basis with teachers.

I often mention “Common Sense” as it seems that all too often it is missing from so many aspects of our lives these days.  Teachers, school administrators, students and parents need to all be on the same page when it comes to engaging on Facebook.  Education is key.  Many of our teachers are quite young themselves and do not seem to possess the professional skills to understand where to draw the line between personal and professional.  Let’s educate them now.

There is no doubt that social media sites such as Facebook will continue to be a part of our lives.  As you know, I am working with Flocks.com which verifies all of its members before they can join.  I am excited that Flocks can provide a platform for students and teachers to engage in a safer, more secure environment.   If you want to learn more about it, reach out to me at Debbie@DoWeComply.com.

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