In today’s world of social media, educators face a dilemma that we have never faced before: whether or not to become Facebook friends with our students. It is an important thing to consider and there are many different opinions that exist about how this should be handled. I’m not going to attempt to tell you whether you should or shouldn’t, but I do have a few suggestions!
First of all, if you choose to become Facebook friends with your students, you must be prepared to maintain a very professional image on your account at all times and avoid fraternization. I have a Facebook page and I am friends with educators and school owners all over the country. Because of this, I carefully manage what I put on my page. I don’t post anything to do with politics, religion, my personal beliefs (although there are certainly times I want to), and always make sure that my friends do not tag me in any controversial posts. I also don’t post a lot about my personal life, although I do share some things from time to time. I make sure to manage my account this way because I represent Milady and it is important to maintain a level of professionalism. It is simply a choice I make in order to have people in the industry as Facebook friends.
A second option would be to create two Facebook accounts. If you simply can’t keep the daily happenings of your life off of social media, then have one page that that represents your personal life and a second page for your professional life where you can communicate with students and post accordingly.
A third option, and the one I would be doing if I were still in the school, would be to create a “Group Facebook” page for your students. When you create a group page you have control over who can join the page. You can keep it private and invitation only. The members of the group can interact with each other and share ideas with one another while you monitor what is being posted. The information that is posted will show up in members’ news feeds but will not go out to their community. One of the benefits of creating a group page is that you don’t have to be “friends” on Facebook with the student to be in the same group. This option allows you to connect and share with your students in a way that they like to communicate while still maintaining a professional distance.
No matter what, it is important that you follow your school’s policy. If the school says not to do it, don’t do it. I will say this, however, by choosing to not do anything on Facebook with students, you are missing a wonderful opportunity. This is how students communicate today. It is a way to stay connected to them and see what is happening in their world. You can post inspirational/motivational information, school announcements, give test reminders, share tips, and so much more. The key is to keep your interaction with students related to the educational environment.