Should Teachers and Students be Friends on Social Networks?

A social network can be defined as a dedicated platform that enables communication to take place between users, either at personal or social levels. In your honest opinion, is social media good or bad, and should students and teachers be friends on social media?

Some people say negative things about social networks while others appreciate and welcome this technological advancement.

In trying to come up with a binding conclusion as to whether it is good or bad in relation to teacher-student relationship, we first need to review the following aspects of social networks:

Social Networking Sites

Networking is the use of internet based social media platforms to communicate and make connections with people. There are several social sites that people use worldwide. These include Facebook, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Twitter, Skype, Snapchat, QZone among others.

Of all these, Statista in  its 2017 report on Most Popular Social Networks Worldwide, Facebook remains the most popular in terms of users and brand visibility, and had a about 1.97 billion active users by April 2017.

There are several uses of social media among them passing information, entertainment, making business deals and marketing.

Uses of Social Media

There are several uses of social media. Some of the most common ones are:

  • Communication – We use it to convey information from one person or group to another. This can be done through use of blogs, tweets, face-booking and use of WhatsApp accounts.
  • Marketing – Companies nowadays use social media sites to create awareness and launch their products since it is simple, cheap, time saving and efficient. They also use these platforms to get customers’ feedback and product reviews.
  • Entertainment – Social media platforms have of late been used as a medium of entertainment. Gaming, video playing and use of YouTube has become popular with the youths and hence the reason they spend most of their times in these social sites.
  • Collaboration – Tools such as Google plus, Wikipedia and Dropbox allow multiple people to share, view and update ideas and documents online.
  • Meeting new people – Some people join it just for sole purpose of meeting new people. In business, it is a perfect place for generating leads and forming partnerships. For example LinkedIn has been used by people to find jobs and make new business deals.

Should teachers and students be friends on social media

Positive Effects of Social Media

Worldwide Connectivity. It allows people from all corners of the world interact, share information and even make deals without physically meeting each other.

Real-Time Information Sharing. Through it, information get shared in real time basis. Media stations nowadays are able to receive real time information which they can use as breaking news in their subsequent bulletins.

Side Effects of Using Social Media

  • Backlash – Sometimes, content posted on social media can receive various demoralizing and brutal comments  which can in turn have long lasting impacts on a person’s future.
  • Cyber-bullying and Crimes Against Children – People have taken advantage of this platform to harass, embarrass and threaten their targets especially children. Cases of smuggling of children have been on the rise just because those responsible find it easy to find their targets and use dubious means to lure them.
  • Risks of Fraud or Identity Theft – In the recent past there have been more cases of cyber crime and fraud related cases. People are able to access classified information and use them to commit crimes.
  • Lack of social networking safety measures and therefore there is no guarantee of safety for all the users. There may be exposure and abuse of one’s privacy.
  • Money and Time Waster – This has been associated mainly with the youths who spend most of their time and money on activities like gaming. These resources can be channeled into more beneficial and productive uses.

Teacher – Student Abuse Cases

Of  late there has been rising number of cases involving sexual misconduct between teachers and students. Texas , USA is regarded as the home to sexual misconduct by teachers with Texas Education Agency (TEA) reporting a record breaking number of 222 cases in the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

According to Terry Abbort, a former chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Education, there have been two major contributors to the continued prevalence of sexual misconduct in schools, that is, text messaging and social media.

He says there were few cases reported almost 15 years ago but of late there has been increase in the number of teenagers owning cell phones.

He says that “sexual predators” have taken advantage of this unsupervised platform to exploit and lure students into inappropriate relationships without knowledge of school principals and parents.

He gives an example of a case where a 31-year-old teacher in Florida was charged of allegedly using Facebook to solicit for sex from over four students.

There was also another case in Texas where a 33-year-old counselor was charged of having sex with a 12th grade student, a relationship which is said to have started in Instagram.

teacher-student relationship on social media

So, Should Teacher-Student Relationship on Social Media be Allowed?

  • According to Terri L Miller (President, Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct & Exploitation, S.E.E.A.M.E) advanced communication technology has darkened communication boundaries and given leeway to sexual misconduct in schools. This is because adults and children find it easier to pass obscene messages they would not have done when they meet face to face.
  • We should first agree that almost every modern child view access to social media platform as a fundamental right. This is a bitter reality of current generation that every parent should accept no matter how much resistance we put forward.
  • Some parents are skeptical about the teacher- student friendship and argue that it may lead to loss of respect between the two, a situation which can permanently ruin their relationships and in turn can affect the performance of the child. To them the dangers of social media are universal and know not whether one is a teacher or student.
  • In an online survey conducted by Debate.Org on whether teachers and students should be friends on Facebook, 36% say Yes while 64% say No.
  • Those against it say that social media can do more harm than good to students. They argue that teacher-student relationship should end when class periods end since communication outside classroom has over recent past been the source of scandals involving teachers and students. They further argue that following students outside is unprofessional and some parents feel offended with it.
  • However those who support teacher- student relationship on social media say that due to positive effects of social media, there is possibility of students learning more about a topic since they can freely consult their teachers on areas they don’t understand. They further argue that from this, special bond can permanently be created even after school days and this can be a perfect opportunity to network.
  • Jeff Gerlach, an instructional design coach, argues that sharing information with students allows students see them as people too. He says, “If students and teachers are deeply invested in one another’s interests and general well-being, it supports a strong teaching and learning relationship as well.” According to him, opening up of personal channels “can create opportunities for informal learning”.

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Though some parents accept social media as a platform for communication between teachers and students, their worry is to know where the boundary should be. While they appreciate introduction of technology, they have some recommendations as far as digital communication is concerned.

  • Some suggest that there should be total ban on private communication between teachers and students on social media and in case it should take place, then the parents need to be copied on the messages.
  • A universal social media account should be created where everyone is able to access information regarding class work and assignments. In this way there will be no room for personal conversations and misconduct between teachers and students.
  • There should be a social media policy for teachers which outline the mode of interaction between teachers and students. Failure to adhere to these guidelines should be considered a policy breach and call for disciplinary actions. For example, New Jersey School’s model policy bans teachers from relating to students without their principal’s approval. The policy restricts district computers and telephones as the only means through which teachers should contact students.

On May 4th, 2017, Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) successfully passed a bill to crack down on the ballooning cases of inappropriate teacher- student relationships in all Texas public schools. He argues that schools should be made safe to enable students prepare for their future.

To Conclude

My honest opinion would be, in order to avoid dangers associated with digital communication, teacher and student relationship like being friends on Facebook on social networks should be avoided at all costs.

Since there are some other risks of social media and there is no social networking safety measures put in place by administrators, let the relationship end in classroom because social media issues have become too much to the extent that it has created too much exposure to our kids.

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