Do you add students as facebook friends?

I do.
I know teachers who absolutely refuse to as well. Where do you stand?

At the beginning of the year I tried different online techniques to give out information (homework, resources, etc…) and found more and more that students weren’t using the software or the applications. My facebook status updates usually looked like, “don’t forget to check the class site for homework”. Eventually I just put the homework reminder directly in the status update instead of sending them elsewhere.

I am happy that my students are comfortable enough with me to let me into their facebook worlds. I see their updates, photos, and videos and am able to celebrate or give a hug when needed.

I am the staff rep for our school’s lacrosse team and created a group for them where we talk about our practices and games and share pictures.

In the huddle, right before the winning goal was scored.

In the huddle, right before the winning goal was scored.

I absolutely love when I see status updates like

my house 8:00 to work on project or who is down for math group tomorrow?

I also love when students post links or videos to my wall as suggestions for classroom resources. Even especially when they ask questions about homework they are having trouble with.

At times, it is a convenient way for students to contact me about issues they are having, either with school work or socially.

At the beginning of the year I had my students on a limited profile list of some sort but I soon changed that as I realized that there was nothing that I posted on facebook that I needed to hide from them or anyone else.

So, where do you stand on maintaining a relationship with students outside of the classroom via facebook (or twitter or plurk or anything else)?


  • Tony Whitmore says:

    I’m currently struggling with a masters project on this very topic. Here in Australia, including the state of Victoria where I teach, there is considerable controversy about Social Networking sites in general and FB in particular.

    At my school our firewall is set up to ensure students can’t access FB, and they are not permitted to have their mobile phones (most do anyhow). Likewise, teachers are expected not to add students as ‘friends’. The body that registers teachers here firmly states that teachers should not friend students.

    I have not been able to find much research that supports these attitudes. Instead, we are advised that FB friending our students may breach some ethical standard. Again, this does not seem to have a basis in fact. The teachers’ code of ethics states that we are always in a professional relationship with students, regardless of the mode of contact. There is no way that a reasonable reading of this can mean that we must not use FB to interact with students.

    Broadly, the whole community cannot cope with the notion of teachers being friends with students, even though ‘FB friend’ does not imply friendship per se.

    There is much left unsaid in the community, but teachers who have students as FB friends are suspected of pedophilia (even senior students are children).

    Alternatively, a teacher who sees students’ banal FB comments and photos containing sexual innuendo or references to drugs and alcohol ‘might be liable’ if they do not intervene.

    Finally, many teachers and parents raise the issue of ‘boundaries’ that require all our teaching to be done during school hours and in the school room. This last one is a hoot, considering my role in the debating team. All the debating competitions are at night and I drive my students to and from the venues and have dinner with them.

    I’d be very keen to hear about any research that you have come across, both for and against.


  • Andrew says:

    Well, some students get drunk and post pictures on Facebook during college, for example. Would I still be liable?

  • Andrew says:

    Hey guys, Quick question: Is it alright to add students after they graduate high school? I do not add students while they are in high school (NO way), but I have accepted them after they graduated. Would this be ok, or is it too risky? I still want to stay in touch with some of the students once they leave high school, but I want to make sure it doesn’t violate any rules as being too personable.

    I figure that once they are no longer affiliated with ____ High School, it would be ok. I still keep my Facebook very bland and boring. Would accepting requests after high school graduation be too soon? Is there any time that would be better? After college, etc.?

    • Tracy says:

      Hi Andrew and welcome. Read my post and replies, I have students as contacts while they are students and they remain so afterwards :)

      You ask, ‘would it be too risky?’ What risks do you imagine?

  • Tracy Rosen says:

    Hi David and welcome to my blog!

    Like you, I add when there is a request and I also prefer to think of them as contacts rather than friends. I’m not friends with my students, I may be a friendly teacher but I’m certainly not their bff.

    I also have a few parents in my list of friends. I like that they are a part of my community.

    I like how you write: “So, if you chose to not add students, that is your decision. But you are cutting yourself off from part of the world.”

    I think this points toward a shift in student-teacher relationship. We are more and more a part of their world. When I was a student my teachers were pretty alien to my world. Did I know any of their first names? Maybe by accident. Did I know if they had pets, families, worries, successes? No. Did I care? No. I didn’t even think they were people in the same sense as other people. I sense that some teachers like this and may even need this to feel they are competent teachers, while I need the personal connection to feel a sense of accomplishment and competence as a teacher.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Dave.

    Tracy Rosens last blog post at [site]..Latest Goings On

  • David Fordee says:

    I add students, but only if they have requested for me to be their ‘friend.’ I really think FaceBook made a mistake labeling it as “friend.” Is it really? I mean, seriously, if your friends were only ever online the world would be a pretty bland place. I think of it more like my contacts.

    Here is what I do, if students start to post information (pictures, silliness, or something i don’t really want to be seeing) I just choose to hide those feeds from coming in and I am then not disturbed by them.

    I loved what you said about realizing that nothing you put on facebook is something that you need to hide from anyone. I feel the same way. The links I post, the status messages that I announce are all pretty much as tame as could be. And it’s my way of sharing some really cool things that I come across.

    This past year a whole crop of students from last year went to college and added me. This has led to a wonderful flowering of relationships with former students that really needed help that I was more than glad to provide. Being a college freshmen is difficult and you feel cut off from your previous world. Facebook is helping students cope with this change. Having an adult with solid decision making skills to get some advice from is not a bad thing.

    I am very careful. But, so far I have not regretted adding students at all. I even have about 4 or 5 parents now as friends on my facebook page. Guess what… we are all human beings. I am a member of their community and I take my place in that community seriously and I hope to be a valued member – whether it is online or not. One thing that I love about the internet is the ability to bring people together for social action. We have raised a LOT of money for our community for charities this year through facebook.

    So, if you chose to not add students, that is your decision. But you are cutting yourself off from part of the world.

    Very refreshing to read your post. Most have not taken your position.

    David Fordees last blog post at [site]..Appreciation Part II

  • Tracy Rosen says:

    What great comments. Sorry for the late replies, guys. What with end of year and the fact that I am moving to a new province in under 2 weeks I haven’t had much time to update!

    It seems that the decision to add students as fb contacts depends on 2 (at least) factors:

    the purpose behind your fb account
    your relationship with your students

    I teach a grand total of 30 students in an alternative program. I see all of them every day, 13 of them almost all day. I work with them well beyond the constraints of the school day – often 2-3 hours past the last bell and sometimes on the weekend as well. Given that I already have an extended relationship with my students, it was natural for that to include facebook. It facilitates our work together.

    Tracy Rosens last blog post at [site]..classroom conversations with myself

  • I try to avoid it like the plague, and sometimes (though not always) resent being ‘friended’ by a faculty member (note: my experiences are from post-secondary, and specifically graduate, education). For me, it’s a power imbalance thing: I’m not a ‘friend’ of a faculty member, and don’t expect to develop that kind of a relationship for some time (the same was true in high school, where I saw teachers as educators and occassionally allies, but not friends). Moreover, I don’t really think that either the faculty member OR the student really need to see what’s going on in the daily lives of one another – it’s just not relevant for the educational setting that both are participants in. I carry these expectations over when leading tutorials; I don’t want to be ‘friended’ by the students, and don’t see any reason why I should be sharing information about myself that I’ve siloed there. They can hit my website if they’re interested in what I’m working through intellectually/academically, delicious to see what I’m tagging online, and twitter if they want to see what I’m talking about. My birthdate, relationship status, etc isn’t something that they need access to.

    I guess, in part, it comes down to me seeing FB as a space for more intimate social networking than places like blogs. I think that just setting up a Twitter stream for a class environment that lets you broadcast messages, along with (maybe) a class blog does what you need without the somewhat awkward power-relationships that emerge when you start friending students. Also: FB has a ‘network effect’, where you need to be a member to participate. Thus, if you are trying to resist ‘giving in’ to FB, and all of a sudden its a core way that your educational institution uses to share information there is a conflict between your norms and those exerted by the institution. That’s not right, nor is it fair – even if there isn’t a *demand* to join, there is a definite pressure to become a member so that you can be where everyone else is. I don’t see similar kinds of pressures existing with either Twitter or blogs, given then both can be set to public broadcasts and thus not needing to give away personal information to access this information.

    At the same time, I should note that I try to keep most of my FB privacy settings on a ‘high’ level to avoid leaking more information than I want; people who are more open with the FB may have different normative expectations of privacy.

    Christopher Parsonss last blog post at [site]..Holistic and Pragmatic Approaches to Privacy Theorization

  • Ken Allan says:

    Kia ora e Tracy!

    When faced with a ticklish question as this one, I look for analogies to rationalise how I think. In doing this, I sometimes begin to think differently about the issue. In this case I didn’t.

    But firstly, my answer. No I don’t add students as Facebook friends. This is principally because my Facebook account was originally set up to use as a communication for family members – many of them are now overseas.

    There is also a matter of relevancy. Frankly, I don’t think many of my students would necessarily find relevance there, probably because of the age of the ‘friends’ I invite onto Facebook. I might be wrong on this, for my two youngest children are teenagers and they’re both ‘friends’ on Facebook, and I’m sure many of my students would/could find many interesting things in my children’s comments and interactions on Facebook.

    Incidentally, the more I learn about teenagers and social networking, the more I realise how unusual I am to be able to network with my teenage children – this is almost unheard of, and I’ve yet to come across a case like it!

    Secondly, I blog. I also send blog links to relevant posts to many of my students when appropriate. What’s more, there are no restrictions on who can find and access my blog. So really, any of my students have a possible opportunity to network with me on my blog – yes, I know, it’s not the same thing. But it’s networking nevertheless.

    Do I invite people into my home? Yes I do. My teenagers are more capable than me of bringing hoards of friends and acquaintances to the house – and that’s okay – no problem there. But I have never ‘invited’ my students to my home. For as much as I have had students living in the same street, and there have been a few, none of them have ever been in my home.

    While this is a personal choice, it has also been a professional one. In almost 40 years of teaching, I have been made aware, and have seen by experience, that there are needs for privacy in being a teacher and especially in the home. Inviting students to the home can open pathways to the erosion of that privacy. This is probably also a personality factor – for we are all different, and probably more so than we realise.

    But the analogy of the home alongside Facebook is very real for me. How do I know this? Simply because I have in the past year or so invited others (not students) as friends to my Facebook account and that has already started to modify the way I communicate with my family, and them with me, using that network. I’m seriously considering removing some of these as Facebook friends because of this.

    Catchya later
    from Middle-earth

    Ken Allans last blog post at [site]..How Do You Build A Team?

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