I’ve been meaning to write about MySpace and Facebook in connection with students for a while. I have accounts on both, and have for quite a while. Facebook I actively use, while MySpace I use only on rare occasion to keep in touch with a couple of friends. But I don’t friend students on either.
When a kid finds me on MySpace (my kids don’t use Facebook as far as I can tell), my response is to tell them that I don’t friend students on the site because I’m not their friend, I’m their teacher, and I think it’s important to have a distinction between the two. “However,” I add, “if I did friend students on MySpace, I would totally friend YOU.” That apparently makes sixth graders feel special enough that they’re cool with the policy, and it’s true. Because if I friended anyone, I’d friend everyone, and that would include them. :)
Some of my former students have pushed a little more after I’ve given them my spiel. They say, “But Ms. Teachin’, we’re not your students anymore! So we can be friends!” These are seventh graders. Because one year removed is so clearly different.
To that, I remind them of my responsibility to report information that I consider one of the big three (hurting self or others or being hurt) and then I ask them if they really want me looking at their pages. They always shut up real fast then.
I do add that if they ever have anything going on that they’re worried about or excited about, they can always come talk to me in person, but that I just don’t want to cross that cyberspace line. They seem to get it, and some have then come to take me up on the offer.
To me, if a kid asks to be my friend on MySpace, it’s a compliment – they like me enough to add me to whatever their little social networking world is. I don’t think they’ve necessarily thought the possible repercussions through (as evidenced in this recent letter to the NYTimes’ The Ethicist [and the position the teacher ended up in? Exactly why I don't do it] and then discussed extensively at Joanne Jacobs), and so it’s my responsibility as an adult to remind them of some of the consequences to posting personal information on the internet. I’m hoping this year to incorporate website and internet usage more into class this year, so I’ll probably do a specific lesson or two on internet safety and privacy. They could use it.
One more thing on MySpace, though – through the Facebook discussion at Joanne Jacobs, I found the best teacher MySpace site I have ever seen. His profile explains that he became a teacher to escape his ninja past, and includes a story about a sixth grade girl who was secretly a ninja assassin armed with a Pokemon pencil. Totally hilarious and awesome. If I were going to friend students on MySpace, I’d want to be as badass as Mr. Wright.