Don’t Friend that Teacher: An Outdated Rule?

Teachers know the drill all too well. If a student sends you a friend request on Facebook, delete it immediately. Close your laptop. Meditate and offer a sacrifice to the old gods.

Of course, this is more than a bit of a hyperbole, but interaction with students online is often viewed as a much bigger deal than it truly is. Teachers and school staff members should be allowed to friend and follow students on social media because it prepares them for the accountability of college and the workforce, it allows teachers to gain an understanding of the student’s personal life, and it permits students to utilize social media to catch up on assignments and to communicate quickly and effectively with their teachers. Though the backlash against this is understandable, when considering the above points, it is clear that opening up this avenue of communication would ultimately better the educational lives of students. Allowing teachers to connect with students on social media will prepare them for the reality of college, the workplace, and of life. Employers and college professors alike will frequently send their workers or students friend requests or even go through their Facebook timelines to get a sense of their true character. Pretending that student and teacher lives are forbidden to intertwine on the internet is harmful to students in the long run.

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For example, incoming college freshman ingrained with this doctrine may be shocked or even appalled that their professor is attempting to follow them on Twitter. Students and potential workers need to know that what they put on the internet is not truly private- and schools need to start letting students realize this early, as an incentive to be careful with what they are putting ‘out there.’ Opening up this avenue of communication will allow teachers to better understand their students’ personal lives and assess how to help them learn. If a student is constantly seen in separate Facebook posts with their mom and then their dad, it becomes clear they live in a split household and the teacher can take this into account. In addition, many times students will not come out and describe the things they are going through if asked by a teacher.

However, it is very easy to simply click ‘accept friend request’ and let them see for themselves. And of course, a teacher ‘liking’ those little snapshots of the student’s life are an indirect, yet very effective way of supporting them in all of their endeavors. Allowing social media interaction will allow teachers to meet students where they are. These lines of communication also allow students to utilize social media to catch up on assignments and to communicate quickly and effectively with their teachers. An absent student can easily message their teachers asking for assignments and extra work to get their grade up.

It is painless, quick, and easy- exponentially more so than traditional methods of student-teacher communication like Canvas or Remind, which can be unreliable and difficult for both parties to use. Nearly everybody nowadays, at the very least, has a Facebook account and understands how to use it. Schools will not have to waste money on the aforementioned programs and can simply utilize the format with which all parties are familiar. Many say that allowing this interaction fosters inappropriate behavior on both the student and the teacher. To that, however, I point to a simple button- ‘reject friend request.’ Neither party is being forced to engage- it is merely an option.

And of course, if the teacher finds content on the student’s page that they are forced to report, letting the appropriate authority figures know as they would any comparable incident in the classroom is easy. The small chance of these negative situations arising should not bar students from the overall wonderful benefits of social media interaction with their teachers. When one considers the immense educational and personal benefits of allowing teachers and students to interact on social media, it becomes clear that the positives far outweigh the negatives. Students learn that they will be held accountable for their actions, even if online, will grow closer to their teachers, and can utilize social media to further their education. Schools around the nation should consider tearing down this narrow-minded, outdated barrier and allowing their staff and students to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.