Teacher-student relationships belong in school, not Facebook

Jonathan Dick

Jonathan Dick, a physical education teacher at Fallston Middle School and high school lacrosse coach when he was arrested.

With the advent of social networking, the boundaries of the teacher-student relationship have gotten a little blurry. But why? Teacher-student relationships belong in the classroom; not on Facebook. There are too many cases in the news of teachers who were dismissed or arrested for inappropriate relationships with students, many which began with talking on social networking sites.

I want to add this disclaimer: I realize that the vast majority of teachers maintain an appropriate distance and stay within the boundaries of their professional relationship to their students. And I certainly don’t mean to suggest that all teacher-student Facebook “friendships” lead to something inappropriate. By why even go there?

But the familiarity of the Internet, particularly social networking, certainly encourages the breaking down of barriers between people. That’s great for helping your child stay close with extended family members or friends from summer camp, but potentially dangerous when it comes to their relationship with teachers at school.

Your school may have policies governing student-teacher interactions outside of class. Some districts ban or discourage teachers from “friending” students, while others leave it up to individual teachers. Whatever your school policy, using a service powered by uKnow.com for your children’s’ cell phones and social networking accounts makes sense. uKnowKids is a good option.

For the generation of youth in their teens today, social media and mobile phones are so intricately woven into the fabric of their lives that they don’t really know what life would be like without them. By extension this a major part of today’s parenting landscape. 75% of teens use Facebook and more than 25% of teens now have a Twitter account. Nearly half of African American teens use Twitter. Among those teens who have a social networking site, half (52%) have checked their sites from a mobile device, and 43% do their social networking from a mobile device most or half the time. 87% of teens use text messaging†

If you notice that your child is “friends” with a teacher on Facebook, and especially if the teacher’s number is in their mobile phone, talk to your child about “unfriending” the adult and about setting appropriate boundaries. At a minimum, watch their communications carefully for any red flags. My advice to teachers: “Find people your own age to ‘friend’. What could you possibly gain from friending children online?”  I cannot think of a single good reason for a teacher to connect with children in a social environment – including Facebook!

Report a teacher immediately to the principal or superintendent if you see long conversations that have nothing to do with schoolwork or the class’s subject matter, or a teacher who reveals too much about their personal life (especially marital or relationship difficulty.) This is obviously an inappropriate line of discussion. Involve the police if the conversations include sexts or if the teacher makes references to adult topics like sex, drinking, or drugs.

I trust that as my kids progress through school, they’ll have teachers who are wonderful, professional educators. But as parents, we still have a responsibility to keep tabs on our children’s social networking accounts and mobile phone and to ensuring that appropriate boundaries are respected.

What do you think? Are teachers crossing the line when they “friend” our children on Facebook?

† Source: Common Sense Media. “Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives”. Summer 2012

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Categories: Facebook, Predators, Sexting, Social Networking, Text Messaging

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2 Comments on “Teacher-student relationships belong in school, not Facebook”

  1. July 3, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

    Tim,

    Excellent Post! I definitely feel as if teachers are crossing the line when they “friend” their students on Facebook. The conversations should stay in the classroom, or as a parent I should be involved in the “offline” communication. When I was in high school I had a teacher that made an inappropriate advance, and although that was over 20 years ago I remember it as if it were yesterday. When I rejected his advances, he treated me differently and I felt as if I had lost a “close friend.” Let’s set our children up for success by keeping the relationship of teacher and student in the classroom!

  2. July 23, 2012 at 11:11 pm #

    Like a lot of people who had yet to come to grips with reality, Facebook and other social networking sites have become easy outlets to live out some sordid fantasy or indulge in some excesses, and in the process become dysfunctional instead of being the role models that they are and should’ve been. As a long-time sales executive prior to being an IT supervisor, my career always taught me professionalism and all the intricacies involving employee relations. Face your problem, not Facebook it, so goes the saying.

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