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Implications for teachers who socialize with students online and how to avoid them

Implications for teachers who socialize with students online and how to avoid them

Social networks such as Facebook and MySpace are primarily for socializing. “Socializing” involves interacting for social purposes, and “social purposes” are those marked by friendly companionship with others. It seems, therefore, that school staff should avoid socializing with students in these environments, because educators and students arguably should not be engaged in friendly companionship.

There are some significant concerns with the possibility of students and teachers having this kind of interaction, including the issue that students flirt. If a student were to send a flirtatious message to a staff member that staff member may be in serious trouble. If the teacher responds to the message warmly, he or she faces the accusation of sexual solicitation. If the teacher turns the student down, he or she faces the possibility of revenge.

Another concern is that the staff member participating on a social networking site will become a “guarantor” of all friends, meaning that if a teacher “friends” some students but not others, it could create a perception that those specific students are favored and may receive preferential treatment (such as a better grade than the others). Relatedly, anything performed online by a school employee – including information and images posted on social networking sites – will be used to judge the character of that individual.

There is also the concern that the friends of the staff member may post unflattering information or tag inappropriate images of them which will quickly be used to prompt one major question: “Is this the kind of person we trust to be responsible for our children?”

Ian Defeo, a substitute teacher in Cape May, New Jersey was judged by online content after giving one of his students a sticker with his band’s logo which also had the address to his MySpace page. The student then visited the teacher’s MySpace page which contained his band’s music videos containing explicit lyrics and one video that contained a brief moment where a woman was exposing herself. The school deemed this content inappropriate and therefore fired him, confirming that school employees can be disciplined for off-duty conduct if the school district can show that the conduct may have had an adverse impact on the school. Non-tenured teachers, like Ian, have even fewer protections.

All of this said, we believe school staff should be able to communicate with students regarding class work and school activities through a school-based Web environment and district email system (sometimes also termed a “walled garden” approach). These are school-related communications in which distinctions of status are professional maintained and not socially blurred or distorted. Most communication through school-based means are monitored (for example, all communications are CC’d to an administrator or stored in an accessible database for review and archival) and provide a safer means of interaction between teachers and students. Our hope is that more and more of these approaches will be implemented and, more importantly, gain visibility, traction, and usage among teachers and youth.

The advice here is “policy makers should not enact reactionary legislation regarding contact between teachers and students. What they really need to focus on is training in proper boundaries.”

Overall, the message to school staff members should be:

  • Think before you act/post. Never send or post, or allow others to send or post any material online that will raise questions about your character or values.
  • Another wise practice that seems critical to implement is to always communicate with students in a professional manner, even if you are using privacy protection features on social networking sites (as privacy protections will not necessarily prevent disclosure of the existence and content of these interactions).
  • Always exercise extreme care when communicating online with students and if at all possible, avoid socializing.

This measure, along with district policy that preempts the possibility of inappropriate relationships developing online between staff and students, seems the best way to go.

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What Great Teachers Do Differently

What Great Teachers Do Differently

  1.  Great teachers never forget that it is people, not programs, that determine the quality of a school.

 2.  Great teachers establish clear expectations at the start of the year and follow them consistently as the year progresses.

3.  Great teachers manage their classrooms thoughtfully. When they say something, they mean it.

4.  When a student misbehaves, great teachers have one goal: to keep that behavior from happening again.

5.  Great teachers have high expectations for students, but have even higher expectations for themselves.

6.  Great teachers know that they are the variable in the classroom. Good teacher consistently strive to improve, and they focus on something they can control: their own performance.

7.  Great teachers focus on students first, with a broad vision that keeps everything in perspective.

8.  Great teachers create a positive atmosphere in their classrooms and schools. They treat every person with respect. In particular, they understand the power of praise.

9.  Great teachers consistently filter out the negatives that don’t matter and share a positive attitude.

10.  Great teachers work hard to keep their relationships in good repair to avoid personal hurt and to repair any possible damage.

11.  Great teachers have the ability to ignore trivial disturbances and the ability to respond to inappropriate behavior without escalating the situation.

12.  Great teachers have a plan and purpose for everything they do. If plans don’t work out the way they had envisioned, they reflect on what they could have done differently and adjust accordingly.

13.  Before making any decision or attempting to bring about any change, great teachers ask themselves one central question: what will the best people think?

14.  Great teachers continually ask themselves who is most comfortable and who is least comfortable with each decision they make. They treat everyone as if they were good.

15.  Great teachers have empathy for students and clarity about how others see them.

16.  Great teachers keep standardized testing in perspective. They focus on the real issue of student learning.

17. Great teachers care about their students. They understand that behaviors and beliefs are tied to emotions, and they understand the power of emotion to jump start change.

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    When teaching goal setting, suggest your youngster consider the following areas in developing goals:

    • Academic/school (for example: make all B’s or above).
    • Family/relatives (for example: get along with Mom).
    • Financial/money (for example: save up for a bike).
    • Hobby/recreational (for example: collect frog figurines).
    • Personal/self-improvement (for example: stop biting my nails).
    • Physical/health/nutrition (for example: give up sodas).
    • Social/friends (for example: get Bobby to like me).
    • Vocational/work (for example: get a job raking leaves)

    Many successful adults formulated their lifelong goals in childhood. This is virtually required for people in especially demanding profession.

    • Most medical doctors and professional athlete choose their profession before they are teenagers.
    • Most professional musicians and dancers start taking lessons during early childhood.
    • Many poets and authors began writing during primary school.
    • Some artists know what they will do with their lies from the moment they make their first crayon scribbles.

    Don’t underestimate the power of a tween who is lost and drifting to begin shaping a life for himself! Don’t underestimate the power of an average tween with a lofty goal.

    Achieving Goals

    After defining some goals comes the hard part: Your tween must list the specific steps she will take to achieve each bone. Advise her that she will probably have to ask friends, parents, relatives and teachers for suggestions. In fact, talking to other people, reading articles or books related to her goal, and searching the internet for ideas count as important steps she can take toward fulfilling her goals.

    Remember, goal setting is strictly personal business. No one is going to grade her on anything. The only thing that matters is that she can make sense of what she is written.


    Top Ten Tips to Help you Understand Your Tween (Age 8 – 13)

    1. Tweens truly appreciate all-or-nothing logic; they see the world in black and white and have great difficulty discerning shades of gray.
    2. Tweens don’t always like to talk and may epress themselves readily via actions.
    3. Peer pressure is real. To help your tween, keep reminding her that when her peers mature, they’ll be more tolerant of differences, but don’t dismiss her efforts to fit in.
    4. It’s normal for tween boys to be rowdy and aggressive; you need to provide them with physical activities that can serve as an outlet for their energy.
    5. Even though your tween may post a ‘Keep Out’ sign on her door, she still needs your love and guidance; the sign is her way of trying to establish boundaries between herself and the outside world.
    6. Tweens do need rules and discipline, but make sure that you are fair and consistent. Allowing your tween to break the rules will send him a message that rules are meant to be broken.
    7. To remain close with your tween, you need to spend time together. Take her with you to the grocery store, ask her to help you make dinner, or watch a movie together and then talk about it.
    8. If your tween is suddenly not doing well in school, don’t assume he’s slow. He may be having problems with his teacher or classmates, or he may simply be uninterested, and he needs your help in resolving these issues.
    9. If your tween never cleans up her room, no matter how many times you remind her, it may be that she doesn’t know where to start or how to go about it. To teach her, break down the process into small steps and check her progress along the way.
    • The best guide to how much your child needs to eat is his appetite, but boredom, anxiety, stress, and depression can trigger or suppress it. Help him sort out the differences and learn how to avoid unhealthy eating habits.
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