Facebook: Teacher’s ‘Friending’ Dilemma

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY: ILAF ESUF

Social mobility has taken an online form and been popularized under Mark Zuckenburg’s creation, much like the movie The Social Network: Facebook.  This trend has been successful and often vital in student lives to bring together friends from vast distances and maintain good communication.

“It’s a great way to keep in touch with people. I have friends from all over the world, and still talk to them on a daily basis,” Reema Patel said.

This method of social networking has grown so popular it has encompassed the lives of students and teachers alike.

Teachers originally created a Facebook profile for personal reasons, however, some teachers use Facebook as a method to increase communication with students as well. Interestingly, schools throughout the nation have recently pondered the pros and cons of such a relationship.

In Florida, the Manatee County School Board is considering creating a policy where teachers would have to contact the student’s parents before “friending” them on Facebook. According to the Manatee County School Board this policy is also intended to limit the instructors’ speech on Facebook to prevent them from saying anything that could cause a scandalous event.

Three teachers in New York City recently got fired for “friending” their students. Though they cannot be prosecuted on being friends with students alone, if they said anything inappropriate on the website, it could be used against them.

“It’s unfortunate that Facebook has chosen to use the word ‘friend.’…I’d rather say I’m connected with my students via Facebook rather than I’m ‘friends’ with them.” physics teacher, Mr. Matt Yamomoto said.

The administration also agrees with Yamamoto in that a friendship between a 40-year-old teacher and a teenager is a bit puzzling.

“I wouldn’t want a student to hear about a teacher’s martini the other night,” principal Debra Hawkins said.

Though, according to Hawkins, the school administration is not trying to regulate the staff’s Facebook use, and though the creation of a district policy is far from reality, administrators are providing information and advice to prevent possible issues. The administration sent an e-mail to all staff members warning them that harm could come with online student-teacher relationships on Facebook. So far, no incidents have been reported, and Hawkins said the staff has maintained their responsibility in person as well as online.

“There is enough flexibility to make it work and find a happy medium,” Mr. Bryant said, after creating a new page solely for his students.

Some teachers have taken the administration’s advice to heart and have deleted their student friends; instead they have created a separate page for school, avoiding their personal life. While some teachers responded, others are taking a stand against it.

Yamamoto claims to like being Facebook friends with his students for better communication and because it provides teachers the opportunity to teach students proper behavior online. He likes “being Facebook friends because it allows [him] to have those conversations about the digital footprint that students are leaving behind.”

Rather than deleting students, Yamamoto said he wants to have an open discussion with the administration in hopes of understanding the issue better.

Other teachers and students agree that Facebook could be used as a teaching tool for proper behavior rather than being seen as a weapon for destructing the school’s reputation.

As technology increases, the possibilities of future lawsuits, rules and issues grow, along with the administration’s advice.

“Fear is not the solution, education is.  Turning our backs, plugging our ears, and saying LALALALA as loud as we can doesn’t change the fact that students are online doing things in public arenas (Facebook is public); we don’t need to be afraid of that.  We need to embrace them, and show them the power of the Internet, the importance of their digital choices, and the real implications of their actions there,” Yamamoto said.

BY: ILAF ESUF