Students, Teachers and Social Networking

Over the past week or so I have read many opinions about teachers adding students as friends on different social networking sites like Facebook. This is a topic that is becoming more and more of an issue, as popularity of these types of websites increases. For me this really comes down to two basic questions: What is the benefit? How is it perceived?

The benefit of having a student as a friend on social networking sites is minimal in helping a teacher create a relationship with a student. All teachers want to create strong relationships, but the context of that relationship should still be student and teacher, not friends.  Having a student privy to personal information muddies the water in a student teacher relationship. This can cause kids to become confused about their relationship with a teacher and how to interact with them in the classroom. This is where perception on the part of students, parents and teachers can become an issue.

Students perceive that this type of access to a teacher’s life gives them the right to interact with them as a personal friend. As a college or upper classmen in high school this may not be that much of an issue but at lower grades 7-10 this can cause some real confusion on the part of students.

Teachers also need to realize that by sharing their thoughts with their students on all aspect of their life can impact their ability to teach. How can teachers present information to students in an unbiased way when students already know their true opinions on topics discussed in class?

Parents and community also play an important role in perception of this type of communication. Teachers need to realize that this type of communication could be misconstrued and place them in a compromising position.

Is this risk worth having students part of your personal networking? This takes us back to the benefit. What is a teacher hoping to accomplish by having them as a friend or contact on their social networking sites? Only the individual teacher can answer that, but the risks are great and your relationship with that student will change much is certainly a fact.

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