Students use Facebook and other electronic communication as a primary means of sharing information. Should teachers use these methods to reach their students?

When I flipped through my school district’s handbook, I was surprised to see a new section addressing teacher/student communication through social media. You may have seen something similar in your own district’s handbook, since many school districts are enacting policies to regulate private electronic communication between teachers and students, whether through text messaging, social media, or email. This issue came to the public’s attention this summer when the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, also known as the Missouri Facebook Law, went into effect. This law forbids exclusive or private conversations between teachers and students on Facebook. A judge has granted an injunction against it, but this issue has sparked a debate among teachers about whether they should be Facebook friends with current students and in what ways they might use Facebook to communicate with students to enhance their learning.

Like many teachers, I agree with the basic tenet of the law: Teachers and students should not be contacting each other through private chats or messaging.

Electronic communication provides a little bit of anonymity to a student who would not be willing to pick up the phone to ask for help.

Students must realize that anything they (or one of their “friends”) post on Facebook can come back to haunt them. They can jeopardize their educational, professional, or athletic goals by having inappropriate posts on Facebook. For instance, teachers might be hesitant to write a letter of recommendation for a student who is applying to a college or a national honor society because of what they now know about the student’s personal life, thanks to Facebook.

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