Acceptability For Teachers To Be Friends With Students On Social Media
Since social media was created and started gaining more and more recognition and popularity, the term “friendship” has been changing. Not only does it mean a companion but on social media it also means a person who you message, share special events and recent activities with. But on social media the term “friend” could be offered to or could be a random stranger who you’ve only met a few times. Adding another person as your friend is an easy process and is mainly associated with teenagers and students who add every Tom, Dick and Harry they meet as a friend on online platforms. This also includes their teachers. Optimistically thinking, online friendship with teachers and friend could make education more enjoyable and exciting. But, the reasons for teachers not adding their students as friends are quite crucial.
One of the main reasons for this is privacy. Through posting about their recent activities and relationships the teacher could be at a more vulnerable state than the student. Due to this many schools have policies that prohibit teachers from following or friending their students on social media. Many of the teachers feel that they are exposed to the wrong audience and this created an insecurity feeling which could intervene in their profession due to their confidence being damaged.
“Staff must not use social networks to communicate with students”
There is a positive side to virtually interaction with teachers and this is because students who are shy and hesitant in class are more willing to ask questions over a screen rather than face to face. But the fact that students are able to gain sensitive information like the teacher’s intimate relationship and lifestyle cannot be overlooked. However, this matter could also be viewed from a different point where the student is vulnerable as the teacher could gain details about their pupils. So instead of making the teacher-student relationship more comfortable, it could lead to either of them being subjected and harassed.
The consequences of removing boundaries could also be inappropriate and unanticipated incidents like sexual relationships could arise between the teacher and student which is not only against the law but also extremely immoral to many people. This could damage the teacher’s reputation or moreover ruin the student’s life.
“A quarter (26%) of women said they had been sent unwanted sexually explicit messages but only 3% reported it.”
There are numerous cases of this sort which include the case of an underaged student named Cody York engaging in a sexual relationship with his PE teacher. Their relationship started off by simply messaging each other and gradually turned unethical. Similar cases like this have occurred and show the influence that social media has on a relationship as people are willing to message others to say something that they would necessarily avoid saying face to face. This does not necessarily mean that all social media relations turn sexual. This means that there are certain boundaries and when the boundaries set by society are erased, unexpected and unacceptable cases occur which could affect both the educator and the pupil.
Certain boundaries are set while teaching and having a personal relationship with the teacher could disrupt the very basis a student-teacher relationship is built on.
“A student who has a personal Facebook relationship with their teacher could be given extra benefits in the classroom.”
A hierarchical system is usually used by teachers while educating pupils in school and this makes them an outsider with a certain authority. This boundary and power over the students can support the establishment of discipline. But by turning into a virtual friend the teacher exhausts these boundaries and causes it to be more challenging to discipline or reason with the student. This could also lead the teacher being bias towards those who are more connected through social media. Three teachers in Atherton Elementary School were fired due to them being biased towards some of the students and giving them answers to the exam paper. Further investigation showed that the teachers developed a personal relationship with the students through social media and that they were forced to comply with the student’s demands.
A study conducted by the NASUWT union shows that out of 7500 teachers more than twenty-one percent have been a victim of cyber bullying. Teachers often lose their confidence in teaching due to the dreadful nature of the abuse they encounter. The personal remarks and comments made by their students often tend to influence the teacher causing them trauma and forcing them to leave their profession.
“Facebook was the most common platform for abuse, followed by RateMyTeachers, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and the photo messaging site Snapchat.”
The abusive comments are mostly made by students aged between seven and eleven and some include racial statements like “go back to China”. Some have even claimed to have been insulted personally by students targeting the teacher’s family members. Moreover, by friending a student their parents are also given access to their pictures and are able to make comments. Several cases have been reported stating that parents comment on teachers negatively through social media. One example for this is when a parent commented on a female teacher’s picture while she was on maternity leave. The parent stated that the teacher had no concern about the class and that her son would not pass because of the teacher.
There are numerous reasons to why a teacher should maintain a professional boundary with their students including reasons such as their personal privacy. The teacher should not have to feel vulnerable or exposed to the wrong observers. Also, there is a teacher-student boundary they should maintain in order to keep their pupils disciplined. If the boundaries are broken and their relation converts to personal, then their future tends to end in a disreputable and dreadful way. Therefore, I think that it is not acceptable for teachers to be friend with students on social media.
- “Staff must not use social networks to communicate with students” (The Guardian)
- “A quarter (26%) of women said they had been sent unwanted sexually explicit messages but only 3% reported it.” (The Guardian)
- “A student who has a personal Facebook relationship with their teacher could be given extra benefits in the classroom.” (Patch.com)
- “Facebook was the most common platform for abuse, followed by RateMyTeachers, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and the photo messaging site SnapChat.” (Telegraph.co.uk)