"Friending" Students online

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by RainbowsEnd, Jun 18, 2008.

  1. RainbowsEnd

    RainbowsEnd Rookie

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    Jun 18, 2008

    I've just finished my first year of teaching. I had 8th graders, and developed some really positive relationships with them. I'm not returning to that school next year, and the kids are now freshman!

    My problem is . . . they've discovered me on facebook and have requested to be my friends. Now, I don't post anything on the internet I wouldn't want my grandmother to know, so it's not a matter of them seeing things about me that they shouldn't. I'm wondering if this crosses a line. On one hand I don't think so . . . because of my care in posting. On the other . . . it seems like a blurry line.

    I'd appreciate some candid feedback. I think I know my own answer, but input is always helpful in making decisions.

    Thanks!!!!!
     
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  3. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    Jun 18, 2008

    I do not allow students to become my friends until they are out of high school. I have several former students on my friend list, but they are all in their 20's and . . . gulp . . . 30's now. The only time I allow "school-age" on my list is for friends' children or my relatives . . . and those are few and far between.
     
  4. applecore

    applecore Devotee

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    Jun 18, 2008

    I think that's cool how you had a great friendship with the students. But, well, to be perfectly blunt with you...don't do it. I would even highly recommed even deleting your account with facebook or any other "online" places like myspace, etc. The slightest word, phrase, etc. could be abused and used against you in any shape, manner, or form. From a meeting of professors and 10 other principals from school districts in the area I just went to a couple of months ago, just because YOU don't have anything bad on your "space" on the net, doesn't mean the kids or other people don't. Keep the sunside up on your job and protect your values :)
     
  5. msb

    msb Rookie

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    Jun 19, 2008

    Hi, I agree with Applecore; it's great that you have a positive relationship with them, but having an online presence such as Facebook and myspace can be a detriment to your career and personal life. There are many people who can look up your information--any thought or phrase can be misinterpreted. I remember reading an article (I think it was in the CA Educator's magazine) in which a teacher's myspace page was hijacked by another student; it contained a great deal of misinformation and other things that weren't so nice about the teacher.

    Here's an article about this topic:
    http://www.nea.org/neatoday/0804/rightswatch.html

    If you had to look for a job again (we're still early in our careers), employers will look you up online. I know that our principal has and will continue to do so to root through his list of candidates.

    The good news is you can maintain a positive relationship with your former students--as a mentor. I have a few students that e-mail me about questions, or ask how I'm doing. However, I still maintain a professional attitude towards them--even though their attitude might be a little more "relaxed". Maintain the professional attitude, and they get the message that you are their mentor and not their friend. I know that students need a positive influence in their lives because some of them don't have that--you are probably one of them. You can be caring and be there for them--just be responsible and remember your role as a teacher/mentor. :)
     
  6. MrsMikesell

    MrsMikesell Cohort

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    Jun 19, 2008

    No. No. No. Nope.

    I have some Facebook friends who I taught when they were in First Grade and are now in HS, who live in a different state now...

    But, otherwise, no.

    Kelly :)
     
  7. Mrs. R.

    Mrs. R. Connoisseur

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    Jun 19, 2008

    I wouldn't go so far as to delete your Facebook account (I have one, and it's not even set to private). However, I would not accept friend requests from high-school age kids. The only high-school kids who I accepted a friends request from was my little sister!
    Even though I am a teacher, I have a right to have a life. I live in the community in which I teach, and I have wine with my dinner in restaurants where my students often run into me. I feel the same way about my online presence. I don't post photos or videos on facebook, but I do on another website, as most of my family lives far away.
     
  8. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Jun 19, 2008

    Don't do it. The line isn't as blurry as it seems. Unfortunately, the reality of today's society is for people to twist the most innocent of encounters and the best inentions into something that seems sordid and amoral. All it would take is one hormonal adolescent with a grudge (against you or one of your former students) to post something or say something that slants towards the grey zone and you're toast.

    msb is right. You can keep a relationship going as a mentor, but not as a friend.
     
  9. slinkytoy

    slinkytoy Rookie

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    Jun 21, 2008

    We had an eighth teacher at our school two years ago who got into trouble for something very similar. She was a coach and she added her former players as friends, so she could get their updates on how they were doing in sports at high school. A parent found out and went to the administration. The parent even accused the coach of being a lesbian. Everything turned out okay, but it was a tough situation for the coach to live through.
     
  10. cheeryteacher

    cheeryteacher Enthusiast

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    I wouldn't. One of the teachers at my old school got into trouble for talking to a kid over Myspace. My kids always ask me to add them, and I always tell them I don't add students. If I deny them I make sure to talk with them about why I denied them so feelings aren't hurt.
     
  11. bluelightstar

    bluelightstar Companion

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    Jun 21, 2008

    I have a Facebook, and I have no plans to delete it. I actually don't deny friend requests (maybe I should), but I put children on Limited Profile where they can access homework assignments only.
     
  12. Yank7

    Yank7 Habitué

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    I wouldn't take a chance. Parents have come across this siuation and have accused the teacher of having an unhealthy relationship with the child.
     
  13. MiddleGradesLA

    MiddleGradesLA Rookie

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    Jun 21, 2008

    Don't do it! Even though you are no longer their teacher, you must still maintain professionalism. They are not your friends, not even online. They are kids who have no business getting in your personal life.
     
  14. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    DH talked me out of deleting my MySpace page ages ago. It was under another nickname I'd used for years, and I've ditched that as well, for the main part. My twenties were a little wild, and I don't want students (or employers) to read all about it, especially now that I'm closer to 40 than 20.
     
  15. Canadian Gal

    Canadian Gal Habitué

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    I have a facebook and most of my students would love to add me, problem is, they can't find me! I have my security settings so high that you can't even add me as a friend unless I add you. I got into some trouble a few years ago over something a friend posted on my MySpace page (since deleted) and I only have 3 minors on my friends' list on facebook.

    One is a kid whose family I have known since his older sister (who is now in University) was 7. Another, I coached when he was 10. Both of those boys are 17. The final kid, is actually 18 now, but I've known him since he was 11, and have actually gone to pick him and his younger sister up from places when they were too drunk to drive. Of course, I know his family very well, or I would never do it. His older brother is one of my best friends, even though he's only 21.
     
  16. storyh

    storyh Companion

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    Jun 21, 2008

    I have MySpace and Facebook only to keep in touch with the good friends I have made while teaching this past year. Some of us have already or will soon move on to other schools, and I want to keep in contact with these people. Like others the only minors on my friends lists are relatives.
     
  17. each1teach1

    each1teach1 Cohort

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    Jun 21, 2008

    I'm very active on Facebook and had to edit some stuff once I got ready to start student teaching. I set the privacy settings so that no one without a college address can find me in a search and even those who have a college e-mail can't actually look at my profile unless I friend them. When I got done student teaching, my students wanted to know if I had myspace and facebook and I wouldn't even tell them whether I did or not even though I'll be teaching in another district next year. My reputation is all I have, so I have to protect it.
     
  18. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    Jun 22, 2008

    I teach all seniors and keep in touch with my grads via Facebook, which mostly consists of sending them birthday greetings and answering an occasional question about a college essay. I'm pretty boring!
     
  19. KatieC

    KatieC Rookie

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    Jun 24, 2008

    Here's a twist...

    What if a parent wants to be your friend? One of my parents from last year requested to be my friend on Facebook. My profile is really pretty sparse and I have few friends- mostly family members. I got along quite well with this woman but I still have a few reservations.

    On the flip side, I will have her son again next year- if I denied her, it would probably have to come with an explanation.

    What would you do?
     
  20. ms_chandler

    ms_chandler Comrade

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    On my MySpace, my last name is really my middle name. So they can't find me when they search for me. I originally had my real complete name, but it wasn't worth explaining why I wouldn't add them. Plus, if they're a certain age, you can't message them if you're not their friend. Basically, then it would just look like I was completely ignoring them AND not wanting to "friend them".... Not worth the hassle.

    When a student's mom got on Facebook, she sent me a friend request. I'm thinking that it just searched their her email address book, but who knows. I rejected it. If she had asked me about it (which she didn't), I would've said that my settings don't allow requests or something like that... lol
     
  21. Superteacher81

    Superteacher81 Comrade

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    In Early April, I noticed one of my good friends deleted her myspace profile. When I got around to asking her about it, she told me that she deleted it because a parent requested her and she didn't want the parent to see anything about her private life at all. And she didn't even have anything questionable or inappropriate on her page at all! I don't know that I'd go so far as to delete my page, but I'd definitely deny them and just say it is for family only or something like that if they ever brought it up!
     
  22. Yank7

    Yank7 Habitué

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    Jun 24, 2008

    I would not become this friendly especially if her son will be in your class again. Tell her you do not think it is a good idea while her son is in your class,the other parents might think it is unfair.Also you might indicate you really only use this space for family members and they would be upset if an outsider became aware of private family matters.
     
  23. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    I have a couple of parents on my MySpace, but they're all people I've known well before that . . . like high school friends or colleagues.
     
  24. apple25

    apple25 Comrade

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    Jun 25, 2008

    I have a facebook account but have the privacy settings set really high. A student of mine asked last year and I ignored it. Her mom also had one and I OK'd her request. The student may have seen my profile using her mom's account, but I'm OK with that - there is nothing there that I wouldn't show my mom. But I didn't add her as a friend - I personally think that you should keep work and life seperate. You can still be a montor - maybe send a little note when they graduate high school, say hello when you meet them in the streets, etc. . . Little situations will come up that will let you show how much you care :)
     
  25. rose5455

    rose5455 New Member

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    Jun 25, 2008

    :eek:hmy: These days some parents are looking for that inappropriate relationship. They could take something totally innocent and ruin your life and career. Remember how hard we worked to arrive at our current destination and don't give them any ammunition to use. Professional relationships with students are the only way to go.
     
  26. Tenured

    Tenured Rookie

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    Jun 29, 2008

    why is everyone thinking it's so good that this teacher is "friend" material.

    I didn't realize a goal of a teacher was to make friends with students...

    I have had kids ask for my myspace (which is on private) Most are content with the "my wife made it and I don't even use the dumb thing" excuse, but some who are around me more (due to sports and whatnot) tend to know better. But I straight up tell them "I don't accept friend invites from students"

    Here's a story of mine...

    My wife had a friend that I couldn't stand. She was 19 and out of school when we met her, so no issues there. While she was 21, she signed onto her myspace at my house and saved teh password. Well, I went to check one and this 21 y.o.'s myspace popped up, signed in. So I proceeded to take it over. I changed her password (password reveal feature on Windows) and then started putting up pictures of me wrestling back in highschool as her background. I put up a picture of an armless baby in her profile picture and started messaging her friends calling them fat, gay, etc (letting them think it was her)

    No porn, (very poor taste, but not inappropriate), I didn't bug her younger sister who was in highschool. Basically, I was a highclass jerk to a girl I really couldn't stand.

    She called the cops (over a myspace) I did nothing illegal so that went nowhere.
    She then had her dad call the superintendant. Here's where it gets interesting.

    Father told the super that "the he (father) had a 15 y.o. in highschool and that the teacher (me) was harassing his daughter"

    see what he did.... I was messing around with his daughter (the 21 y.o. and he did have a 15 y.o. daughter in HS. He intentionally mislead what was actually happening to make it sound like a crime.

    It was investigated and I was cleared. But all it takes is one person with a grudge.

    Funny thing was, the Super apologized to me at the end of it all.
     
  27. cheeryteacher

    cheeryteacher Enthusiast

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    Jun 29, 2008

    It's not cool that you hijacked her Myspace. I can understand maybe pulling a prank and then letting her in on it, but what you did was uncalled for. I'm not surprised she wanted to get revenge on you.
     
  28. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    I agree cheeryteacher. All it would have taken was a change in her password.
     
  29. Sam Aye M

    Sam Aye M Mr. Know-It-All

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    Jun 29, 2008

    I quoted the above because it is the best advice given in this thread so far. You are NOT their friend, and there is a line of professionalism that you have to follow, even when they are no longer your students.

    I work as such a small facility, that I often have some students for 3 or more years in a row. Some of these kids I have known for over ten years, and have gotten to know them quite well. Even so, I would NEVER give them my myspace, facebook, whatever, account, or add them as a "friend." I believe it crosses the line of being professional. A lot of my students graduate and leave, and always ask for my number, email, facebook, to contact me aftwerwards. I always tell them to call the school and ask for me, and I will always accept the call or call them back. That is the safest arrangement for them, and the safest arrangement for me as well. By only contacting me at work, they know that I am still willing and able to be their mentor, and they are not confused about whether I am their "friend" or not. It is clear to them, I am not.

    The best advice a boss ever gave me about this is "Once a client, always a client." If it is not something that you would have done when they were your student/client, then it should not be something you do after they move on either.

    As for parents... they can contact me through email or by phone at work. I believe anything else is unprofessional.
     
  30. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Jun 29, 2008

    I've known people who have set up seperate facebook/myspace accounts soley for this purpose. That might be the best comprimise. It keeps the personal side of things out of the student/mentor relationship andallows parents to keep up with the goings on of the classrooms but makes clear there is a definate line between personal and professional.
     
  31. rose5455

    rose5455 New Member

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    I totally agree with you! Very sound advice!
     
  32. KatieC

    KatieC Rookie

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    After thinking about it and hearing everyone's opinions, I agree that it's not even a good idea to befriend a parent online. I do want to be as professional as possible- that is of utmost importance to me because I did work hard to get where I am.

    And by the way- after viewing the "parent" request- I noticed the birthdate seemed to match that of my student... I wasn't quite expecting that. All in all, the lesson is that it is better to keep a personal life just that.
     
  33. ahsila

    ahsila Companion

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    I have two myspace pages (will have two facebook pages when I get more comfortable with the site). One is personal and the other is just for adding students. It is very school-centered. I post assignments/notes in the blog and add as many of my students/parents as I can. That way, if a student is absent, they have a way to see what we went over. Working with middle schoolers, it also helps that they think I am cool enough to have a myspace page. My personal page is set up using a nickname I had in highschool as my first name, so my students wouldn't know it was me even if they happened to find it (also have my picture set to a generic pic so they can't identify my page that way either).
     
  34. SavedOne

    SavedOne Rookie

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    I too have seperate pages. My kids I interned with wanted to add me, so I created a page just for them! I have one picture on it.. Me and my cat... and everything I post on there has soemthing to do with school.. It's great!
     
  35. mrachelle87

    mrachelle87 Fanatic

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    As a mother of a teen, I am not comfortable with the teacher and my child being listed as friends. In fact I had to go to an administrator this year over this topic. The science teacher invited several boys to join his myspace. When I got on there, I found jokes, pictures, and other links that made me uncomfortable. When I spoke to the teacher, he told me not to be a prude. (He and I are the same age, but he has started acting like a kid since his divorce.) So, I went to his principal. His principal got the page shut down. This did not make me popular with my son or his friends, because "Mr. _____ is our friend." But that is ok, parenting is not about being popular.
     
  36. SashaBear

    SashaBear Companion

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    This is a great topic! I'm glad everyone gave some insight. I just made my myspace page private to only friends and only 18 and under are allowed to contact me.
     
  37. MrL

    MrL Companion

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    I have my Livejournal set to Friends only, and never give out my account name. I have kids e-mail me if they want to via the District e-mail system, show it shows a clear line of communication.

    Now, the head of our language arts department goes on World of Warcraft guild raids with his students. I'm let some students Friend me on X-Box Live, but since they all play Halo 3 while I'll playing Team Fortress 2 I haven't got to frag any yet. Yet.
     
  38. Electron

    Electron Rookie

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    Aug 2, 2008

    My Facebook page is totally hidden from anyone who isn't my friend. I can't be found by any search. If you did manage somehow to look at it, you would find a very dull picture of me and no wall, no applications, almost nothing at all. I only use FB for its original purpose -- keeping in touch with college friends. I don't have a MySpace account at all.

    As for keeping in touch with former students -- I differ from some here in that I believe you could be friends with a former student after a long time has elapsed (that is, years after high school graduation). But anything else is just career suicide these days, unfortunately.
     
  39. MrL

    MrL Companion

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    Aug 4, 2008

    Yup, I got my second friends request from a student. Guess I can expect this now, the name must be out. On the bright side, this gives me loads of people to play Guitar Hero 3 with, and Halo 3 when I get it.

    Not uncoincidentally, I set my entire LJ to friends only.
     
  40. trayums

    trayums Enthusiast

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    Aug 4, 2008

    I have a Facebook and a My Space account but I would not accept students former or current as my friends. You can set them so that they are private and you have to have people be accepted in order to be your friend and they cannot see your pictures or the full page unless they are. I think it's too dangerous to allow them to be friends on those things.
     
  41. MrL

    MrL Companion

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    Aug 5, 2008

    Lucky enough, my friending only lets me kick their butts more often.:2up:
     

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