Teachers to Students: Let's Not Be Facebook Friends

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Maybe teachers should keep their relationships with kids offline. Credit: The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld/AP

Let's face it, there's a certain creep factor when you think your teenage daughter is exchanging photos, news feeds and friend requests on Facebook with her male high school science teacher.

We've heard the social network horror stories, but parents may feel comforted by a move to put Facebook on the don't list for parent-teacher relationships, ABC News reports.

As Facebook, Twitter and others have grown in popularity, more and more U.S. teachers have reportedly been disciplined -- and even fired -- for sharing photos and messages deemed inappropriate by their school systems, according to ABC. Other schools are busily drawing up conservative social media policies outlining what teachers can and can't show off on their Facebook pages with students, despite cries from some educators who argue this infringes on teachers' speech rights.

While teachers can use some networking sites such as Twitter or intranets to extend classroom discussion and post homework assignments, sites such as Facebook and MySpace -- which delve deeper into personal lives and information --easily blur the student-teacher relationship, Rabbi Avi Schwartz, an educator at Magen David Yeshiva in Brooklyn, N.Y., tells Education.com.

"There needs to be a certain distance between teachers and students in order to maintain respect," Schwartz says. "A teacher needs to be a role model, mentor and advice giver -- not a 'friend.' "

Heather Steed, a recent graduate of Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla., tells Education.com that, as a student, she never added instructors on a social network until she completed their classes.

"I think that students and teachers have different personas in the classroom than outside of it, and the two should not necessarily be mixed," she tells the site.

In August, a Massachusetts teacher was asked to resign after posting comments on her Facebook wall describing students as "germ bags" and parents as "snobby" and "arrogant," according to ABC. Although the teacher said she intended the comments for her close friends only, her privacy settings were open enough that others in her town could see what she had to say.

Scenarios like this have pushed school administrators across the country to create strict social networking policies. School administrators in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for instance, are considering a similar proposal that would ban teachers from "friending" or "following" students on social media sites and limit online communication to school-related correspondence only, ABC reports.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.