The Oracle

Teachers’ ‘friending’ blurs formality lines

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By Elsa Chu

Graphics by George Hwang.

As Facebook becomes increasingly popular, teachers have started “friending” their students. While this seems like a harmless step into a modern technological world, it only blurs the authoritative, personal and sometimes even physical boundaries between teacher and student.

Teachers should not assume the position of being a student’s “friend” for this behavior leads to a lack of authority and respect, and it can even lead to favoritism. For that same reason, teachers are forbidden from privately tutoring students in their class for money, and many social laws simply dictate that teachers should stay away from overly personal interactions with students.

Problems have popped up all over the United States with sexual predators taking advantage of students through Facebook, which students use for frequent peer socializing, thus giving a false sense of security against problems previously associated with MySpace, such as sexual predation and harassment.

Though this is a rare and extreme case, the root problem is still applicable to this campus. Preventing teacher from “friending” current students allows them to remain figures of authority in the classroom, as sharing particular personal details with select students encourages subconscious preferential treatment. This translates to slight, subtle changes in the classroom environment, as the barrier of respect is broken down. Students gossip based on information they see on Facebook, therefore when teachers start popping up on their news feeds and become sources of defamation, students begin to treat teachers differently. Their view of what should be an unquestionable authority figure slowly unravels to that of a peer.

With the busy lives teachers lead, they shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not information they post on their profiles is student-appropriate. Students may abuse the ability to go though their teacher’s private pictures and contacts, intruding on their privacy.

With the busy lives teachers lead, they shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not information they post on their profiles is student-appropriate. Students may abuse the ability to go though their teacher’s private pictures and contacts, intruding on their privacy.”

Communicating through  texting has also become more common as teachers try to adapt to fit the trends of a technology-savvy generation. There are exceptions to this cyber-interaction that are acceptable; when students leave for school trips and their teachers need to get information to them, cell phones are the most useful way to get hold of students. In addition, if a student is a teaching assistant, then communicating through text is an ideal way of being concise. However, one should notice these situations occur only when the the relationship isn’t strictly teacher-student; students are instead under direct long-term supervision of the teacher.

One could say that the same is true for email, and that teachers and students should refrain from any type of online interaction. However, email is pre-established as a tool for means of business and its professionalism demands a level of formality that Facebook lacks.

As a solution, teachers should simply avoid Facebook interactions until their students graduate. Keeping a strict rein on the uncertainties of cyber-interactions will allow for teachers to remain teachers and students to remain students.

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Teachers’ ‘friending’ blurs formality lines