My Facebook friend count is almost embarrassing to reveal.
My current total is 40, but I’m extremely picky about who I add. It’s a personal, not professional, domain for me so coworkers and newspaper contacts are out. I also don’t friend anyone I’m not actually friends with, and I mean real, live friends, who I spent one-on-one social time with at some point in our lives and still want to keep in touch with.
Granted, different people use Facebook for different purposes. Some use it professionally to network. Others use it to rally support for a cause. Like me, many use it to keep in touch with friends who once lived nearby and are now spread across the globe.
In most cases, it’s up to the user to decide where to draw the line. Except in one instance, when it comes to teachers and students.
With school back in full swing, The Arizona Republic published an article in its Sunday, Aug. 14, edition concerning teacher-student Internet relationships outside the classroom.
Arizona, unlike other states, such as Missouri, does not impose restrictions at a state level. Missouri’s new law, set to take effect late this month, goes one step further prohibiting all private electronic communication between teachers and students.
In Arizona, it’s currently up to each district to impose restrictions.
According to Superintendent David Lykins, the Sedona-Oak Creek School District has provisions in place to protect students from inappropriate Internet content and blocks access to all social media like Facebook on campus but has no rule about afterhours social media contact. Lykins said SOCSD hasn’t had any problems with social networking but will continue to update policies.
The majority of teachers only have students’ best interests in mind when making any sort of contact with students, whether it’s helping them in the classroom with a tough problem or cheering on the home team at a sporting event. It’s a teacher’s job to foster, support and guide his or her students ... when they’re on the clock.
When a teacher isn’t working, his or her activities of choice aren’t anyone’s business, as long as they’re legal.
Facebook, however, can rob a teacher of this privacy and put him or her at risk of unknowingly influencing student opinion of them based on circumstances the student shouldn’t even be aware of.
Students, on the other hand, don’t yet understand the difference between a personal and professional world. Up to this point in their lives, everything is personal. They go to school with their friends, usually work with their friends and are still learning how a crush on a football player should not affect their math class score.
So, many students most likely consider teachers their friends and feel connected to them, as some teachers do with students.
The difference, however, is the teacher should know the difference between their personal life and their job, and set a good example for students by adhering to moral guidelines.
Students don’t need to see pictures of a teacher vacationing at the beach or funny college photos posted from an old friend. They don’t need to know who their teacher is meeting for happy hour on a Friday after work.
Friending can blur the line between authority figure and equal, which jeopardizes a teacher’s position in the classroom.
After a student graduates, it’s a different situation completely. If the student still wishes to be in contact with the teacher, the relationship has transitioned from professional to personal.