Friends on Facebook

Is it Appropriate for Students and Teachers to Be Friends on Facebook?

American society has become largely dependent on social networks like Twitter and particularly Facebook to carry out communication. The current generation of American youth on the whole are attached to screens and handsets as if they are a basic human need. In the field of teaching, it is understood that teachers are supposed to keep up with the technological progressions of the present day, especially those that are employed by students.

Recently there has been much legal wrangling over the issue of communication between teachers and students on Facebook. In America, a lot of school districts have widely-varying social media policies. Educational institutions in New York City and Florida have disciplined teachers for Facebook activity, and Missouri legislators recently acquiesced to teachers’ objections to a strict statewide policy (Matthews, 2012). Let us make out what are the main arguments for and against teachers and students interacting through the avenue of Facebook.

On one hand, there are numerous benefits in engaging in Facebook as a means of communication between teachers and students. Teachers can reach their students with more ease. Using social networks allows teachers to provide information quickly and effectively to many students at once, as well as being able to try out new exciting teaching techniques. “Being friends with students provides more information than you are willing to afford in an educational setting,” says Patrick Sweeney, an adjunct professor of history and government in Houston, Texas (Lucas, 2012). Students are also more likely to learn from someone they trust and can relate to. The communication between teachers and students on Facebook allows the establishment of close and trustful relationships between them. It provides an opportunity for teachers to communicate with their students in the same way that students do with each other.

These advantages also can draw up some major negatives. There is an opportunity for students to discover inappropriate and private details about their teachers. When a student gets access to a teacher’s network of friends and is able to view their private life, for instance, the student-teacher dynamic is altered. There is also a possibility for the development of inappropriate personal relationships between teachers and students. Some teachers have also exhibited inappropriate behavior while communicating with their students on Facebook. An investigation found that one of the teachers had been holding sexually explicit conversations with his 16 year-old student on the site for three months. While communicating, he posted comments on erotic photos the student was posing for over a webcam (Vasagar & Williams, 2012). The world of the Internet and social media legally blurs the edges between its users. In order to control the situation, the New York City Department of Education has released new social media guidelines. Among the various rules for teachers, Facebook friending with students has been banned. New York Chancellor Dennis Walcott said that teachers “don’t want to be put in a situation that could either compromise them or be misinterpreted.” (Matthews, 2012)

Social media, in particular Facebook, definitely must be used as a vital educational resource, especially because it is a primary means of communication for today’s America’s youth. But it should be used appropriately. Teachers pursuing a virtual friendship must acknowledge that first of all they are educators, then friends. The use of Facebook among teachers and students should not cause distress to academic success.

References

Matthews Karen. Associated Press. Should Teachers and Students Be Facebook Friends? Wed, Apr 18, 2012.

Cheri Lucas. Should Students and Teachers Be Online “Friends”? June 11, 2012. Retrieved from www.education.com.

Vasagar Jeevan & Williams Martin. The Guardian. Teachers Warned Over Befriending Pupils on Facebook – Monday 23 January 2012.