Bullying, Social Networking, and the Teacher-Student Relationship

You’ve probably seen a lot about bullying in recent weeks. I’m going to throw in my two cents’ worth because of something I discovered on Facebook last night. I’m friends with a good number of my former students, including some who are still in school. They often appear on my newsfeed, and last night a girl’s status showed up with a link to a page called “Endless[School Name] Slutss”. Upon clicking on the link, I found a page for a fake persona with about 150 friends and some disturbing statements in what little of the actual profile I could see. I immediately took a screen shot and emailed all the administrators at my school; I have a feeling this page is a way for people to talk trash about a lot of the girls in the school.

I’m not going to attempt to discuss why all of this is suddenly so prevalent – or maybe it just seems prevalent because technology now makes it more visible.  I’m more intrigued by the role of social networking in all of this.

For instance, there’s significant debate about whether or not teachers should be friends with students on Facebook or other sites. I decided that it was not appropriate for me to be friends with them while I was still teaching them, but once I left the school I allowed them to friend me. I have them all set on pretty strict privacy settings – most important, they can’t see any pictures of me. Unfortunately, they have not set any restrictions for me – I can see everything about them, and I’m often concerned about what I see, though this is the first time I’ve ever acted on it.  

This raises a few questions that I’m going to put out there for anyone to answer – I’d really like to see some debate about this.

  1. Should teachers be Facebook friends with students, at any time?
  2. How should schools respond to things like the page that I found?
  3. Should schools educate students about responsible use of social networking and other technology? What would a program like that include?
  4. Should teachers respond to students who post concerning content on their Facebook pages, or have you ceded that kind of authority/influence by being friends with them in the first place?

About educationescritora

I'm a former high school Spanish teacher and central office employee. I believe that excellent public education will be a catalyst for positive social change in our country and that we cannot wait any longer to deliver the teachers, knowledge, and skills that our students need.
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One Response to Bullying, Social Networking, and the Teacher-Student Relationship

  1. Insert Clever Name says:

    1. Sure, but probably not until after they are no longer teaching the respective student(s)
    2. Tough to say. Do they have a free speech right? Could the school even do anything about it.
    3. Yes! Understanding of privacy controls, advice on boundaries of decorum, scenarios illustrating the potential harms/benefits
    4. Report it if unlawful or appears to be physical danger involved. Otherwise, perhaps individual note to the poster?

    My guess would be that we are not witnessing an explosion of bullying and gossip, but just an explosion of its visibility. That said, I’m sure our social networking tools have facilitated it to some degree. They have also rendered it more permanent than the ephemeral passed notes or hushed lunchroom whispers of yore.

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