Friday, June 17, 2011

Facebook & Befriending Students

I've been on Facebook for several years and I always maintained a strict "NO friending students" policy. However, I've changed my mind over the last couple months. 

My biggest reason for the change of heart is that Facebook is where the students ARE. They seem to be on here 24/7. It doesn't matter that Facebook's policy prohibits minors under the age of 13 from creating accounts. 

However, as an educator I have big concerns about my privacy as well as how involved I want to be with students in cyberspace. 

Facebook's privacy settings are sometimes difficult to navigate and it seems that there are MANY possible pitfalls.

For example, do you allow students to 'see' all of your status updates and posts? I don't. When friending students I assign them to a specific 'List' which I conveniently named 'Students'. They are allowed to see only the posts that I specifically assign to that List. 

How about your photo albums? Did you know that you can adjust privacy settings for every album? I didn't....until I realized that some of my newly friended students were commenting on photos that I hadn't reviewed in years. 

My point is - if you are a teacher and you are choosing to befriend students on Facebook, be smart about it. Check your privacy settings. Don't be afraid to click around and dig deep into the different menus! Set up a list and assign students to it so you can protect your status updates or be doubly-darn sure that you don't post ANYTHING that could be construed as inappropriate (remembering of course that we live in the heart of the Bible Belt and lots of people hold strict beliefs about lots of things!). 

In preparing this post I searched my county's website and Board of Ed site as well as the GA D.O.E. site. I did NOT find any specific mention of Facebook or social media in the ethics policies. I reviewed the online training materials and the only statement I found that could apply to Facebook or other social media is a vague mention about inappropriate communication with students via electronic media. 

Let me know if you find specific rules concerning educators and students on social media! I'm interested in the ramifications of this. I'm most interested in making sure we all stay safe and are able to connect with students in a way that's meaningful to them, but also professionally sound.

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