Social Media is not the Problem

I recently came across an article in the New York Times on social media. The basic premise behind the article is laws and boundaries are being put in place to protect both teachers and students from inappropriate relationships or interactions as a result of social media use. My initial gut reaction was not positive to be honest. A few statements stuck out at me specifically.
“Some teachers have set poor examples by posting lurid comments or photographs involving sex or alcohol on social media sites. Some have had inappropriate contact with students that blur the teacher-student boundary.”
Yes, this is a true statement. Some teachers have used poor professional judgment in what actions they have taken in regards to student relationships online. Due to discretions of the few, why must we mandate for all? Should we ban all youth football programs from universities due to the infractions of a few? I believe whole heartedly that educators using social media sites for inappropriate means should be dealt with and prosecuted as such. To say that social media causes these negative things to occur is ignorant at best. If anything, social media brings to light such behaviors that could easily remain hidden behind closed doors. Poor decisions cause problems, not social media. In addition, when brought to light via social media, those instances have to be dealt with and not swept under the rug.
“School administrators are also concerned about teachers’ revealing too much information about their private lives.”
This is another statement that I took a certain degree of issue with. Many teachers are not comfortable sharing personal information with their students in any form. That is fine. However, some of the most influential teachers are those that are able to walk that line between professional and personal. Parents and students alike, respond best to teachers that are “real” human beings and part of that is sharing personal information. I tell my student’s parents that I have children of my own and often share stories and relate to them. Is that not a good thing to do? When talking to my students I often share personal stories about my life experiences as they pertain to them. Does that not help me build rapport and better connect with my students? How about helping teachers negotiate those lines rather than removing the line completely?
“What worries some educators is that overly restrictive policies will remove an effective way of engaging students who regularly use social media platforms to communicate.”
I agree with this statement completely. If we remove a viable option for parent/teacher/student communication we are just shutting doors. In the current economic and social realities of the world we live in, teachers need to use whatever means at their disposal to connect to students and parents. Social media is just another option on the table that if used properly can be highly effective.

Yes, we need to protect our students as well as our teachers. However, as history has often proven, banning never has the desired outcome or intended results. Let’s instead use a policy of guidance and education to help both our students and teachers use these powerful tools for good. Oh…and most teachers are already doing this!  

5 comments:

Kimberley Rivett said...

You are absolutely correct - we cannot just lock away the goodies and HOPE that the kids never find them! They will find them and they will do it with or without us! So, equipping the learners of today with skills, strategies and tools is far more important than blocking social media sites and hiding away the exact method of communication that they seek to use. Well written! Another reason I voted for your blog on the edublogs awards!

Philip Cummings said...

Great post and I agree with you fully. Unfortunately, a M.O. for much of education has always been to punish everyone for the mistakes of a few. As much as leaders talk about personalization and differentiation for our students, one would think they might need to offer the same for teachers. Fact is that it's all about control, and this is just one more way to wield it.

Sascha said...

Totally agree with your post. I already mentioned it on my post as well. With Social Media it is with every other tool. It depends always on how you use it.

Still don't understand how the ny times could publish such an article.

While being quite new to the teaching business I experienced that students can appreciated freedom and honesty and the possibility to have 'normal' conversations with their teacher outside the classroom. In my case (language teaching in Thailand, as European) Social Media helps a lot and I wouldn't want any rules to restrict that.

The easiest (social media) communication rule is still: Don't talk shit, think before you post & don't be stupid. period. And i think most teachers and students get this pretty straight without anyone telling them what they can say and what they can't.

Riley said...

The idea that we can make the internet safer by removing all of the caring adults is so backwards that it makes my hands shake. Leaving kids on their own on the internet, without modeling responsible use, is like purposely stranding the kids on the island in Lord of the Flies.

I got an inappropriate comment on my blog from a student, posted a question to twitter about how to handle it, and immediate got considerate, caring answers from the teachers that were allowed to be there (http://bit.ly/twFsnS). I hope we don't lose sight of the benefits of mentors and role models online!

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