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education.com asks:
Q:

What do you think: should students & teachers be 'friends' on social networks?

With more adults, including teachers, joining social networks like Facebook and MySpace, some teen students are now finding their teachers' social network profiles and sending them a "friend" request.

What do you think: Should a teacher accept the invitation and be connected to his/her students as online friends? Why or why not?

For some background on this topic, check out this Education.com article, "Should Students and Teachers Be Online "Friends"? by Cheri Lucas.
http://www.education.com/magazine/article/Stude...
In Topics: Working with my child's teacher(s), Children and the internet, Technology and my child
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Candace_Lindemann
Jul 8, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

What a great question (and article)!

Here's another article from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Ed Magazine:

http://www.gse.harvard.edu/blog/news_features_releases/2009/01/thanks-for-the-add-now-help-me-with-my-homework.html

In my opinion, teachers should keep interaction with their friends separate from interactions with current students.

There are many ways teachers can use private or popular social networking sites as part of legitimate class interaction.

Teachers can create facebook pages for their classes and students may become fans.  Group blogs are an excellent way of continuing learning outside the classroom.  And teachers can maintain a separate "professional" Twitter account and use that for interactions with students, parents, other teachers, and administrators.

In general, teachers have to be especially aware of their behavior in public spaces, whether that is in real life or online.  Unlike professional athletes, teachers have explicitly signed on to be role models and should act that way, online and off.  Teachers should be aware of "over sharing" and hold back not only inappropriate information but also consider how much they value their privacy.

Another issue for teachers to consider is access.  They may wish to set online office hours so students and parents understand the teacher is not always going to be able to respond in real time.

None of these challenges should prevent teachers and students from using social media to build vibrant online academic communities.  From geocaching to virtual field trips to continuing discussions, the possibilities truly have no limit.

---
Candace Lindemann, Ed.M. - JustAsk Expert
Educational Consultant and Writer
http://CandaceLindemann.com
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Additional Answers (8)

eliad
eliad , Parent writes:
I talked about it with my neighbor who is a science teacher in middle school. he mentioned that he get tons of invitations to befriends from his students and that he never accepted them. (He doesn't have a facebook account)
When I told him that his students might think he's cool if they know more about him, he said, and I quote .."I don't need them to think that I'm cool, I need them to focus on their study and do their homework!"..
It was a funny reaction and we both laughed about it.

I do think that we'll see some smart teachers who will find ways to leverage these new online social media channels as learning tools and will be able to connect with their students on a whole new level. It is happening as we speak and we should get used to it.
> 60 days ago

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Louiseasl
Louiseasl , Child Professional writes:
This is a million dollar question!  The answer for me is NO.  I AM a teacher, college level, and I will not "friend" any current student who is taking one of my classes.  If I need to inform my students of upcoming assignments, change in schedule, etc... I will do so via campus email or an email that is not for personal usage.  I will be your social network friend, if mutually agreed, after you have completed college. However, chances are you will be bored by my web pages as I will restrict most students to what they can access.  Yet, I will join an organization that is school based and has set up a networking site, such as a group on Facebook for the club that I advise.  However, I limit access to anyone who I have not asked to be a "friend" to any personal materials or private websites on these networks.

I also am a youth group leader.  I do not "friend" any of the high school students who ask to be my "pal" either.  Again, they can email me if they need to share information.    

In essence,  I use network sites for mainly benign information and networking for my career.

I look forward to reading other responses.
> 60 days ago

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kat_eden
kat_eden , Parent writes:
I recently discussed this question with a friend who's a middle school teacher at a small, private, religious school. She said that she does accept Facebook "friend" requests from her students and that she uses those online relationships as a way to help teach her students about appropriate (and inappropriate) behavior (on and off line). If one of them posts something questionable about what they did over the weekend, she privately talks to them about the implications of the behavior and of publishing it on their "permanent" online record. She also gets more insight into the conflicts and relationships of her students (which may sound like an invasion of their privacy but they're choosing to share with her by inviting her to be a 'friend') so she's able to support them in those situations.

She herself is very conservative in terms of what she posts in her own Facebook account.

In a situation like this, it seems like a very healthy and helpful way for teachers to help their students. But I'm not sure she could get away with it in a different environment.
> 60 days ago

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Loddie1
Loddie1 , Parent writes:
Very interesting question... There used to be a time when teacher was considered like a parent. Now it seems more and more teachers are getting down on the kids levels but are sending them mixed messages. I think this would send a kid a mixed message. I think being professional is always best for both people.
> 60 days ago

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ilovechefwilliam
ilovechefwi... , Teacher, Caregiver writes:
Wow, a ton of people said a ton of great things.  I am personally friends with some of the parents of my students in my class.  I teach children with autism, so this is another way for me to support the parents as needed.  I think it is very important that whatever you decide that you are aware of your digital footprint.  I am a part of many social networks.  Facebook, myspace, twitter, youtube, and of course plurk.  On all of these accounts I am very aware of what I post (including pictures)  I think friending someone on a social network just depends on your personality and what you want to get out of it.

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Sue Scheff
Sue Scheff , Parent writes:
I recently wrote an article:

Teachers, students and social networking: Should teachers befriend their students?

http://www.examiner.com/x-19494-Broward-County-Parenting-Teens-Examiner~y2010m1d6-Teachers-students-and-social-networking-Should-teachers-befriend-their-students

It is my opinion that teachers, like other people with jobs, may prefer to keep their home lives private. If you open a Facebook or other social networking site, you may want to make a decision from the start - is this for your work or is it for your friends and family? I have found that some can find a comfortable mix, and some prefer to keep their lives separate.

As for teachers, it would seem they would like to keep their private lives private, however there may be some that don't mind inviting their students.

Whatever the situation is, the parent of the student should be involved in this "befriending" - as a parent should always be part of their children's lives - both online and off.

Now dealing with teens and online, that can be another subject entirely, but parents should always be involved to some extent.

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nibornito
nibornito writes:
Teachers and students should understand the boundaries between a friendship and a student-teacher relationship.  Each as an individual must have their own private life and each must respect it.  Allowing a student into a teacher´s private life deters the student-teacher relationship and respect toward the teacher. I understand that students want to become more friendly with teachers whom they feel more comfortable with or with whom they are more trustworthy, however, their should be a distance between both.  Teachers must understand that as professionals there are ethics involved in this matter.  Being too friendly with students may not be seen with kind eyes by school administrators, and having students in your private life is being too friendly.
> 60 days ago

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HeatherPeterson124
HeatherPete... writes:
Well in my own opinion, There's nothing wrong being friends with your teacher on social networks. Social network is for everyone. Being friends via social networks is a way to get to know more about each other. Time to meet common interest and dislikes.

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