Danielle Degelman

Tech Task #2–Should Teachers Add their Students as Facebook Friends?

Posted on: January 21, 2011

cc licensed flickr photo shared by mcdordor2001

There are many controversies involving Facebook and the use of Facebook by teachers.  Should teachers be friends with students on Facebook? Are there certain circumstances when this is acceptable, or circumstances when it is not? Even though I have a strong opinion of these questions, I will present arguments made by the two sides while considering certain circumstances.

Some people believe that it is unprofessional for teachers to become Facebook friends with their students (under any circumstances).  To be sure that students cannot add you in the first place, change your privacy settings!  This way, students cannot conduct a search on you, find photos from your profile page, or click “add as friend”.  The Internet is a wide-open space that anyone can access through the use of a computer…even small children (as well as parents!!!).  Another concern presented is the mixing of “personal” and “professional” life.  According to the STF Code of Ethics, “teaching practice involves a public trust”.  If students decide to chat with you on Facebook, how do parents know that you can be trusted?  Parents may present this as a concern by speaking to you, the principal, or even the school board.  Finally, teachers may find information about students that they had not known about before (through wall posts, tagged photos, status updates, etc.). If this new information was of serious concern, how would the teacher handle it in a professional manner?  It may be possible that student-teacher relationships over Facebook isn’t the best idea…

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Adriano Gasparri

However, there is another side to the argument.  According to CBC Radio, about 20% of British Columbia teachers add their students as Facebook friends.  For example, some teachers will clean out their Facebook profiles BEFORE adding their students on Facebook.  You wouldn’t want your students finding pictures of you in that really skimpy bathing suit now, would you? After you have cleaned out your profile, there still needs to be some careful guidelines outlined for you and your students.  According to “A Teacher’s Guide to Using Facebook“, there needs to be strict rules regarding chat and e-mail times, appropriate language and material, application use, and wall posts.  Other Facebook users decide that it is only appropriate to accept student friend requests after graduation day, since this is a point when student-teacher relationships become more casual.  Furthermore, graduated students may want to thank their teachers for the influence that they have had on their lives.

As for my personal opinion, if you are not supposed to be friends with your students in the classroom, then why would you be friends with them on Facebook? Since I plan on becoming a full-time teacher in August, I got rid of my Facebook account two weeks ago. Why would I want students digging into my personal life?  I would like to hear how others feel about this issue…Thank you for reading!

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3 Responses to "Tech Task #2–Should Teachers Add their Students as Facebook Friends?"

Social networking certainly poses some new challenges for teachers and students alike. I enjoyed reading about the different points of view. You waited until the end to share your own opinion but I was interested to know what you really thought and glad you included it. The issue has to do with the threadbare curtains protecting public and private lives. I suggest that educators can leverage social networking just as businesses have, by creating separate pages that share blog feeds and other posts but are only “liked” and not “friended”. Might that work?

As long as it fits into the curriculum and what students are learning, it may be worth a shot! I agree that the idea of “friends” is a touchy subject for students, since relationships can be quite complicated in both elementary school and high school. Thanks for the idea! 🙂

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"Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength of the nation." -- John F. Kennedy

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