Should teachers and students be Facebook friends?
I’m a teacher at a secondary school, and, among the staff, there is some disagreement concerning whether teachers should befriend students on Facebook. Is it a good idea, for example, to agree on a common policy, where we, as a principle, never accept students as Facebook friends? Or, is it OK to befriend a student?
Answer from Kids and Media’s Advisor:
This is a good question, to which Kids and Media can’t provide a definite answer. You, as teachers, know your school best, and we believe that this is an important topic that should, first and foremost, be debated among the teachers. Parents and students may give you valuable insight in regard to this subject, so it might be a good idea to discuss the topic at a parent-teacher meeting, or in class.
We at Kids and Media have met many teachers who have befriended their students on Facebook, and we have met equally many teachers who deliberately never allow a student to become a Facebook friend. For some teachers, and for some students, being Facebook friends provides a positive and constructive connection. Still, others feel the need to keep a certain distance between everyday life at school and private life at home. Many teachers have families and lead busy lives, and might not even have a Facebook account. Other teachers claim that if you befriend one student, then you’ll have to befriend all of them; or risk that the ones left out fell feel neglected.
Either way, if you, as a teacher, choose to be Facebook friends with your students, it is important to carefully consider how you present yourself online. You also need to consider how you should relate to personal information about the students that you might come across, as you never know what you might discover, and later wish you hadn’t. What if you get to know something about a student that you should talk to someone about – either the student himself or herself, or the student’s parents, or, perhaps, other agencies? How do you relate to the fact that you all of a sudden might get to know something about your students that really doesn’t relate to school?
Other teachers at secondary schools show a genuine interest in the class environment and each and every student’s welfare. Many teachers feel they benefit from paying attention to what is going on among the students - also outside of school. This might help in improving the social environment, as well as provide themes and issues that might be useful in teaching. In addition, it becomes easier to catch bullying in the early stages.
Our experience points to the fact that many children and young people spend a lot of time online without adult presence. Few teachers and parents manage to keep updated or have time to join their children in the digital world. Children will benefit greatly from having adults around that show enthusiasm and interest, as well as people who are familiar with children’s digital arenas. Having adults around will have a positive influence on children’s online behaviour, language and cyber bullying. Even if teachers choose not to befriend their students on Facebook, it’s still valuable just to talk about issues concerning children and young people’s “online life”.
Once, a fifteen-year-old told me that parents and teachers often asked her; ”how was football practice today?” or; ”how was school today?”. The she said: ”Why do you never ask; how was Internet today? Cause’, you know, that’s where we spend a lot of our time…”
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