Should teachers be allowed to communicate with students through personal social media accounts?

Citing the potential for misuse and abuse, New York City school officials say teachers can no longer contact students through personal social media accounts on services such as Twitter and Facebook.

Today’s Question: Should teachers be allowed to communicate with students through their personal social media accounts?

Excerpt from the New York Times story:

The guidelines do not ban teachers from using social media and, in fact, recognize that it can offer tremendous educational benefits. Nor do they address cellphones and text messaging between teachers and students, which, according to a review by The New York Times of dozens of Education Department investigations in the past five years, have been more widespread and problematic.

But the guidelines do reflect growing concerns nationwide about the instantaneous ease with which teachers can interact electronically with students, and the potential for misuse or abuse. New York City’s guidelines, which were reported on Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal, represent the latest official response to a number of episodes involving teachers accused of behaving inappropriately with students.

  • Hiram

    It’s not the best idea, but it’s not a good idea to make it against the rules. It would be a rule that would be difficult to enforce, and way too easy to violate, particularly in a world where teacher student internet communication is pretty much the wave of the future.

  • don schumacher

    If a parent or guardian are informed and give their consent, then in certain situations it can be ok. That said, it is so hard to police. Parents have got to keep open lines of communication with their kids in todays high tech world. I guess it comes down to instilling good values in your kids and trusting they will make good decisions.

  • Steve Borgstrom

    I prefer to only friend former students on social media. I would rather have all communications with current students going through school servers using my school email, so there is never a question about what I said or what they said.

  • GregX

    Under the right of free speech – yes. Under the mode of social media … conditionally. Since students, in this instance, are able to friend or follow all manner of non-taecher adults in those technologies … it isn’t a question of etachers somehow being worse than the rest.

    If I wa a teacher who was looking to maintain a good job – I think the last thing I would do would be to literally link my future to the half-cooked brains of adolescent, over-webbed, sexually & socially evolving experimentalists.

  • Stephanie

    This makes sense, and teacher should not have student friends on social media on personal accounts. When my students ask, I teach them about boundaries (and how I don’t ‘friend’ my boss). I wonder if it allows for a separate school-based social media account? Some teachers have special accounts with names such as “Mr. Peterson’s English” where they post news and allow students to respond to articles as an assignment.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Since so many kids don’t seem to know how to communicate in any other way,….

  • Jim G

    Teachers should be allowed but not encouraged to communicate with students through personal social media accounts. Social networking was just beginning when a young school social worker suggested that we set up accounts so students could interact with their teachers outside of school. As an older curmudgeon I resisted this new opportunity to be part of my students’ lives. First, teachers need a life outside of school and the job. The job can take over all parts of a teacher’s life if boundaries are not set. If the boundary is blurred, that’s when burnout is more probable. Second, I saw huge liabilities for me as a male teacher to be accused of impropriety. Teenage emotions and social groups can quickly become dangerous minefields and should be avoided by a prudent professional. Students have been known to develop crushes, which turn on a dime. Beware of that dime. Careers have been lost by not paying attention to that dime. In conclusion, from this veteran teacher the advice is be careful, very careful, for not only is your job in jeopardy so are the lives of the students you Friend.

  • georges

    Absolutely not.

    Teachers should not have any contact whatsoever with a student who is not in the school building, except when at school events, such as sports, band, etc.

    Teachers are EMPLOYEES of the school district, and are paid to TEACH certain subjects to the children of the district, in the school, in the manner the district prescribes.

    Nothing more, nothing less. You are employees, and you are not employed to be the friend of the students, the good buddy, the BFF, or any other kind of pal. In fact, any teacher who wants to spend time with students outside of school, online or in person, is, and rightfully should be, suspect.

    Get over yourselves, teachers. You are merely employees. Act like it. Or find other employment.

  • Ann

    The only communication that makes sense is the same type of communication that is used by employers. If the school has an email system set up, a student could use that in the same way that employees communicate with their employers. Communication should be kept “official” and subject to investigation if necessary.

  • EAL

    Perhaps the question should be reframed. Under the assumption this is for students under eighteen. For purely academic reasons, all forms of communications should be open. If a student is in jeapordy or knows of a student in jeopardy, logic would suggest communications would be prudent. All other reasons should be off base and any teacher who engages is social networking is demonstrating a certain level of immaturity. For teachers using social networking for unethical activities, a jail should built on top of them while they are still alive. Finally, the issue is the juvenile and at times sinister activities of the students. Teacerhs should stay away out of common sense.

  • Christie

    My personal policy is only to “friend” or connect with FORMER students, and only if THEY ask. For any asynchronous communication, I use my school-provided email address and send to the student’s school-provided email address. We do have school-related Twitter and FB accounts that are informational for anyone who wants to look at them.

    To be honest, I don’t want my students anywhere near my personal life.

  • EAL

    Christie, come now, let’s not add logic and common sense to this discussion!

  • Steve the Cynic

    That’s right, georges. Teachers should be nothing more than the cogs in the system that they are hired to be. Heaven forfend that they should have anything like a human relationship with a student. Mentoring and individual attention should be anathema, since that kind of namby-pamby coddling only makes kids weak. How can young people be trained to be useful to employers if they start developing emotional attachments to authority figures? The Invisible Hand needs employees who are soulless automatons, and that’s the example public school teachers should set.

    Seriously, though, if I were a public school teacher, I’d want my union negotiating to get a rule like that one in New York. Teachers have stressfull and important jobs, and since most of them are highly dedicated, the temptation to over-function to the point of burnout is great. A rule like that would be helpful in setting healthy boundaries.