One of our Really Good Teachers recently posed the question to our Facebook audience about friending parents and students on social media sites. “How does everyone feel about friending parents on social media? I have always said no but have already had requests this year. One is a teacher in the district from another school. My gut tells me not to friend parents no matter what,” she inquired. Judging from the passionate responses she received, the topic is one that hits home for many teachers.
Should Teachers Friend Parents on Social Media?
Surprisingly, many teachers said that they do friend parents on social media sites and see nothing wrong with it. “I don’t see a problem with it. [It’s] easy communication, [and I get to] see photos as they grow older. [I] wouldn’t have anything on there that shouldn’t be anyway,” explained one teacher. Others agreed, citing their close watch on posts as one of the key factors in feeling comfortable with the social relationship. “I do. I am very careful if what I post and share. I don’t put anything out there I wouldn’t want on the front page of the newspaper,” said another.
Interestingly, the majority of those who said that they do friend parents on social media were teachers from small towns or small, private schools. “In a small, rural town with only two traffic lights to boast about, everybody knows everything anyway. There is no such thing as a personal life vs. professional life in a town like the one I live in. Besides, I am always a teacher, whether it is to my students, to my own children, or to those who are observing my example. I use social media to my advantage to promote awareness on educational issues, as a means to develop and strengthen parent involvement, and as a means to use my bilingual skills to post reminders for upcoming events and announcements in English and Spanish. For me, it is an extension of my profession and my passion,” explained one teacher from Georgia. Another teacher agreed, “If you are from a rural area it’s different as many of the parents are your friends. I am only friends on social media with people I would feel comfortable doing things with outside of school.”
But others question where the line is between professional and social relationships and whether that is a line that teachers should cross. “A professional relationship is unique and confidential to each child. A social media relationship is too personal. Where is the defining line?” asked one teacher. An alternative that some teachers found helpful to friending parents was to create a class Facebook page. “I like to keep relationships with my students’ families professional & in the school setting. I do however have a class Facebook page. When parents try to friend request me, I direct them to my class page,” one teacher said. Still others found even that too personal. “It’s a boundary issue. [It’s] not a good idea to mix the personal and the professional lives,” stated another teacher.
Protecting teachers and the school from liability issues is also a concern for school administration. “As an administrator, I would not advise becoming friends. Your personal life should be kept separate from your professional one,” one administrator stated. In fact, many schools and districts have started issuing social media policies for their staff. “My school just adopted a policy that makes it easy for all of us. No friending parents of current students, current students, or former students under the age of 18,” one teacher commented.
Teachers’ unions may also have policies against such social interactions or strongly discourage them amongst their members. “It’s best practice to keep your personal life seperate from your school life, therefore I would not accept parents as friends. Not to mention that it’s frowned upon by school boards and unions,” reiterated one teacher.
But how do parents feel about teachers’ policies not to friend them on social sites? Not surprisingly, because the Really Good Stuff company Facebook page is a public page, when some of the teachers posted their comments, their activity appeared on their own Facebook feed. If they happened to be friends with students’ parents, those individuals also saw notice of the teacher’s activity. “Wow. There must be some really awful parents out there who have scared many teachers away. P.S. I’m a parent and this is an example of how even if you’re not FB friends with someone, a parent may be able to see a comment you make on a post of a page you’ve both liked,” commented one mom. “As a parent, not a teacher, I wouldn’t want to know what my children’s teacher got up to when they aren’t at work. They should be able to do what they want and not worry about being judged on a Monday morning!” expressed another parent.
Whether for or against friending parents on social media, the reliance on social media sites for communication and news only continues to grow. The boundaries between social and professional relationships are slowly becoming blurred. Do you think parents have the right to expect social media communication and interaction with their children’s teachers or does that cross the line? At what point does a healthy, supportive parent-teacher relationship end and a social relationship start?
What do you think? Is friending a parent on social media a good idea for teachers? And for parents, is social media communication something you expect from your child’s teachers? Share your thoughts!
Read the original post and over 500 responses on the Really Good Stuff Facebook page here.