I am honored to be on the Board of Directors of KidSafe Foundation, a South Florida based non-profit dedicated to educating children and parents about the prevention of sexual abuse. Below is the most recent KidSafe blog on the dangers of teachers “friending” students on Facebook.
To friend the teacher or not to friend the teacher, that is the question.
The school year is right around the corner and the safety of all children are on the forefront of our mind. We think its time for all parents to think about boundaries between students and their teachers. Teachers are in the position of role model for our children no matter what your children’s ages. In today’s world our children’s teachers are using technology. As technology is advancing the age of our children using technology is getting younger. Many teachers use technology in the classroom and your children need to be up to speed on the latest and greatest that is out there.
Children need to be 13 years of age to be on facebook, yet we all know children as young as 9 have their own pages. Children have a hard time understanding the consequences of their actions and friending ones teacher is just something a kid might do, just like they might friend a relative, an older cousin or their older brother’s friend. From a child or teens perspective this is someone they see daily, feel connected to, and perhaps the teacher has encouraged the kids to be in touch via facebook to get questions answered or extra help.
It all sounds good, right? Wrong. Why? Facebook is social media, a place where a teacher wears many hats. We are not even talking about impropriety here, we are talking about common sense privacy and professional boundaries. Do all teachers think to themselves before they post a picture or make a comment – what will my 7th grade students think about this? Is it appropriate for your 6th grader to know t her teacher spent the weekend away with her boyfriend? (Nothing wrong with teacher spending weekend away – but is it necessary for your sixth grader to know how her teacher spends her weekend?)
In today’s complicated world it seems more and more teachers are crossing boundaries with students. Not a day goes by that we don’t see a news story about a teacher, coach, or other trusted adult molesting, sexting or other avenues of impropriety with a student through technology. Now if teachers are reading this… keep in mind (we are teachers too) and we believe that most teachers only have the best interests of their students in mind and would never cross an inappropriate boundary. But in this day and age there are many that do and are making unsafe choices and because of that we believe that teachers and students should NOT be friends on any social media web sites.
Our children are growing up in the digital age – less is more, faster is better and to catch our child’s attention teachers must be on the cutting edge of technology. But that doesn’t mean that the students understand what is in their own best interest. Many wouldn’t think twice about friending a teacher. It is the teachers that need to put in some thought, and recognize their professional role, and the risks they open themselves up to by friending students.
With that said, there are a myriad of options online for today’s teachers to reach out to their students without crossing professional boundaries, or perhaps mistakenly showing favoritism – by only friending certain students, etc. Teachers creating a class website reaching out to the whole class and parents too can be an effective form of communication and have tremendous benefit to our children.
Since there is still much to learn regarding Social Networking and professionalism – some School Boards in various states have created policy to address the issue. The solution: Teachers should not be “friends” with their students! They should be mentors, role models and guides for our children.
Teachers deserve to have a life. They have every right to post pictures, talk about their lives, whatever they want. But as the role model, mentor and guide – I don’t want my child to see it or be a part of it because when they do…they become a part of it too and that my “friend” is how the boundaries get blurred.
To learn more about KidSafe Foundation, click here.