I feel the need to add my voice to the national conversation about Teachers and Facebook.
So, here are my rules for Facebook:
1) I joined Facebook on the invite of a former student, and thought it would be a good way to stay in touch. So I've always approached it with the mindset of an educator.
2) When upperclassmen and former students ask to "friend" me, I generally do. I have found it to be an invaluable communication tool.
3) I don't respond to requests to "friend" 9th graders, who I just don't think can handle it.
4) I hide many students' statuses from my newsfeed. I really don't feel the need to know all about their lives.
5) I don't ask students to be my friend. Firstly, I think that's a little sad; secondly, I would never want any student to feel pressured.
6) It's nice to be able to post a status update about school work, particularly with my seniors, and know they will read it. It was invaluable during the three weeks of intense snow and missed school we had last year.
7) I totally used it as advertising for the baseball team this past year.
Now, onto the risks. I know about them.
1) A student could see something inappropriate that I post. I'm not really worried about this, because I never have the urge to post anything about getting drunk or anything dumb like that. Everything I put up there are innocuous details about my life (workouts, baseball), nothing serious. I don't discuss personal relationships or anything else I would consider "juicy".
2) One of my friends could post something inappropriate about me. It could be a photograph at a bar, I guess. I'm not too worried about this. I keep pretty close tabs on photographs of me, and would untag myself if alcohol were present. However, I'm not that worried about that, either -- it's not like there is going to be a shot of me doing a kegstand. I just don't do that kind of stuff.
3) Most importantly, I think there is risk with what my responsibilities are if I see something a kid posts that is illegal. Last year, I (accidentally) saw a video of a student that I thought I should take to my principal the next day. [I just decided to delete some details about the video, so sorry if this part doesn't make as much sense.]
A few of my colleagues have created "alternate" Facebook identities that are just school-related. I think this is an interesting idea, but it doesn't prevent #3, which, for me, is the biggest risk of Facebook -- seeing what the kids write and being legally bound to do something about it. I'm not sure if there is legal bounding or not. I knew when I saw the video, that I was obligated to do something about it -- at least by my own moral standards, if not professional (though probably professional as well). However, what if I had not seen the video. Similarly, if a kid writes, "I'm drinking straight vodka and am about to go driving" and I see it, then I know to do something about it, but, more than likely, I would not see it. Could anyone say I should have seen it and, thus, that I was legally bound to do something about it? Or, perhaps more seriously, if a student talks about hurting herself or someone else. What is my obligation, legally? What if, as I said, I have most of my students hidden from my newsfeed, or I'm not focused on my Facebook?
All this isn't to dissuade myself, because I do find FB pretty invaluable for me as an educator. I think I will expand it even more next year, as I plan to create a FB page for my senior class, as other teachers have done. But I go into it with my eyes wide open. I know there are risks.
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