The state of Missouri is enacting a law that says teachers and students should not be friends on Facebook. 1)
I want to comment on this and to do so I am going to use a very precise term so you may want to have your copy of the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) or a thesaurus handy.
While some will say this is to protect the students from predatory teachers my concern goes beyond that. Yes, I know there are predatory teachers, just like there are predatory policemen and predatory firemen and child predators of many other kinds. They are out there and most of us don’t recognize them. THAT is my fear and one reason why I am fully behind this law.
How many times have you seen on your Facebook page a name that you did not recognize that may have been forwarded or ‘reposted’ by someone you do not know? And who among your friends might have inadvertently connected to someone that you would not want to have access to one of your students? We must be ever vigilant. Children are not able to properly evaluate what they see online without an adult’s perspective. Adults are supposed to protect children.
Speaking of which, I wonder if children should be allowed to post anything on Facebook without supervision. I know the groans are cascading down my way as I say this but I am not apologizing for wanting children to be nurtured and protected from information they do not need to know and from exposing themselves to possible embarrassment and even danger because of what they put out there.
As adults we must be aware of what our children, and the children that we teach, are exposed to. It is our responsibility to screen for content and evaluate risk on everything they see. That is called being responsible, which is what adults are supposed to be and children are learning about.
The Missouri law is interesting in that it does not restrict social connections that are available to other adults like the parents and school administrators. Again I agree with them. It also helps protect teachers from spurious accusations. Technology is here and we will make use of it but like any other tool, parents and adults in loco parentis decide if and how children are to use it. In my mind that is exactly the way it should be.
No child should be cruising unrestricted on open social networks. Parents should always have access to their child’s social contacts and they should review them often. That is responsible parenting and in this instant communication world, we need it now more than ever.