August 12, 2011

The Great Facebook Debate

I don't know if anyone else follows these stories, but I read the other week that the state of Missouri has passed a law that makes it illegal for teachers to have any private communication on social networking sites.

The article peaked my interest because despite being seriously hidden, my stalker (which I say endearingly) students find me on Facebook and friend request me all the time. I've struggled with how to respond to their requests. On one hand, I love that they want to be connected with me even though I'm not their teacher anymore. On the other hand, I don't want to look unprofessional. To date, they are all sitting in Facebook Purgatory because even though I haven't accepted them, I can't bring myself to deny them either. It feels like I'm sending a message that I don't care about them outside of my classroom, and that just isn't true.

In many ways, these social networking sites are just an extension of our communities. Certainly, I wouldn't ignore my students if I saw them in a restaurant, grocery store, or walking around my neighborhood. I would stop and chat with them. I enjoy hearing about their lives. I feel a sense of responsibility for them and want to see them succeed and find happiness.

And even though I'm not friends with any of my students, they still message me all the time. In fact, the message me because I won't accept their friend requests. Yes, I have an email account where they can reach me, but the fact of the matter is that generation doesn't use email. They use Facebook.

One of the lawmakers was quoted as saying that the the motivation behind this law was to keep teachers from being predators to their students. Really? You trust us alone with them in the classroom all day every day, yet you don't trust what we might say in a private message (which, by the way, is eternally stored on the Internets)? I'm so offended!

[Yes, there are creeper teachers out there, but they are obviously not the norm. And you don't make a law like this to prevent a very small minority of people from doing something that's usually harmless.]

Our jobs as teachers shouldn't end at 3:00 just because the learning day is over. We should be positive role models and mentors to our children wherever and whenever they find us. I think it's great that there are teachers that are willing to reach out to their students on a level they appreciate and who extend themselves beyond the walls and hours of the school day to show their students they care. They're in a position to be able to model appropriate Facebook behavior, which many students can benefit from. They're making themselves available to the students that may not be comfortable approaching them in person, to those that may need a positive adult role model in their lives outside of the school.  

At the end of the day, I think it should be a teacher's right to friend whomever they want on Facebook or Twitter. I'm annoyed that state governments have the audacity to dictate whether or not I can communicate with my students. 


  1. Agreed and well put, Erin! I think that many teachers (yourself included) are able to have healthy boundaries with their students both in real life and on the internet. I also know some teachers make profiles that are seperate for their students/parents of students use.

  2. What a great post! Very well said :) My friend just became a teacher and she's been debating whether or not to delete hers in case her students find her because she doesn't want to accept them, but she said she feels bad denying them too!

  3. It's so awesome when politicians waste time and money on something they really just don't understand.

    Facebook's private messages are no different than emails at all. Predators can just as easily email students, and have had that ability for years now. But now that Facebook's popularity has spiked and sensationalist privacy headlines have been run, they feel compelled to take action.

    And an afterthought: Facebook has the benefit of having a form of communication that is public, so students and teachers could communicate freely where everyone can see that their conversations are not inappropriate.

  4. I've thought about making a separate profile. To be honest, I'm not so worried about the things on my page, but I don't want to be responsible for the (illegal)things I could see on their pages. That's the main reason I haven't accepted them yet. Well, that and I don't want my page taken over by a bunch of high school kids! haha!

    And Dan, I completely agree that this is a waste of time and effort by our politicians. I think we have WAY bigger things to worry about!