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Staff Editorial: My Princi-Pal ‘Likes’ Me

Social networking sites open the door to all sorts of awkward situations. Your inbox fills up with friend requests from complete strangers, vaguely familiar faces and that one classmate who seems a little too eager to get to know you. It’s an ethical dilemma—ignore and hurt their feelings or accept your new “friend.” For some students, the awkwardness escalates when school faculty members are among the acquaintances sending them friend requests.
In some instances teachers and administrators add students as friends on sites such as Facebook to monitor students, as well as to keep them connected to school. One such case involves a principal in Bay City, Michigan. He used Facebook to monitor his students and sometimes intervened when cyber bullying occurred. Some parents applauded his proactive approach while others felt their parenting skills were insulted.
However, there are other ways for teachers to communicate with their students online. School-targeted site such as TeacherWeb.com are designed specifically for educators, making online communication without overexposure possible.
Another issue is that social networking sites may threaten the professionalism of faculty-student relationships. After all, you would perceive your history teacher in a different way when pictures of his crazy weekend out drinking are posted. Students also say things on the Internet that they wouldn’t want their teachers to see. Though both faculty members and students are held accountable for the things they post online, sites like Facebook tend to reveal how a person interacts with peers. And since Facebook is for connecting with peers, having a faculty member as a “friend” can erase some of their authority.
Despite all the debate, the most pressing concern seems to be the need to keep personal and professional lives separate. If faculty members decide that using networking sites is necessary, then having an account just for students to access academics-related material seems reasonable.
The rules and procedures concerning communication between school faculty and students via social networking sites are still gray areas. As our lives become more intertwined with the Internet, it seems logical that administrators would take advantage of this. However, as schools extend their reach into the uncharted territories of sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, new complications arise. Though many school districts have no clear-cut policy on situations involving social networking sites, many faculty members choose to avoid the responsibilities of seeing into a student’s personal life. Until a definite line is drawn dictating what is appropriate for faculty and students, there is always the “ignore” button.

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