Since so many high school and college students use social media as one of their main forms of communication, should schools too? More specifically, should teachers use social media to connect with their students?
This topic has always sparked controversy, especially since there are typically not set standards on online teacher-student relationships.
One of the main reasons for not using social media for teachers to communicate with their students is that inappropriate behavior may be encouraged. Nancy Willard, author of “Cyber Savvy: Embracing Digital Safety and Civility,” believes that schools should establish their own online environments and use programs specifically designed for educational purposes. Willard believes that the main problem with websites like Facebook, is that they are set up primarily for socializing. “On Facebook, flirting is encouraged.” Willars said. “You are encouraged to post your relationship status and your relationship interests. That’s not appropriate for a relationship between teachers and students.”
To prevent instances like this from happening, the Huffington Post reports that over 40 primary school districts across the country have now decided to take this situation into their own hands with the approval of social media policies.
Other high schools have reportedly decided against creating a social media policy for the time being, in fear of violating student/teacher rights and because they believe it will soon become outdated anyways. Instead, they advise faculty to use their best judgment. For many, this means not accepting friend requests from students on social media websites.
Other options besides communicating via personal social networking sites include:
- Using Twitter, only to answer questions the students may have or to facilitate group discussion
- Using websites like Blackboard, which offers interactive options like discussion boards and instant messaging and can be downloaded as applications on smart phones
- Using class-specific web pages or blogs, like WordPress (click to check out our course’s blog!)
For those who feel that social media sites like Facebook are necessary in order to communicate with their students, they could always consider the possibility of having two accounts. By having two separate accounts, teachers are able to still keep their personal information from students and remain professional – something important on both the high school and college level.
The Huffington Post reports that David Roush, who teaches media communications and television production at a New York high school, implements this policy and does not accept students as friends on his personal Facebook account, but instead has a separate account that he has created specifically for interacting with his students. He believes that older methods of communication, such as email, are outdated and not as effective as social media sites. By using Facebook, Roush is able to quickly reach his students. In fact, Roush used Facebook to let his students know about a summer internship, and one of his students who viewed the post applied and actually won. “If I would have emailed him, if I had tried calling him, he never would have got it,” Roush said.
Still, the idea of teachers interacting with their students via Facebook and similar social media platforms makes some people uncomfortable, mostly due to the higher level of intimacy involved in the nature of the sites. A report by an Amarillo, Texas ABC Affiliate considers these potential for inappropriate relationships to stem from these social media sites:
What do you think? Do you have any experiences or opinions on teacher-student relationships? We would love to hear your thoughts!
(If you liked this post, you may also be interested in our past posts on how social media affects our education and how social media can be used appropriately inside and outside of the classroom!)