Wednesday 21 – Thursday 22 December 2011
So, I found myself pondering the title question the other day, and for once, it wasn’t in relation to me. It was, in fact, in relation to some people that I know. I should probably start from the beginning, in case people get the wrong idea.
Here’s the scenario: a couple of days ago, I got yet another Facebook friend request from Girl A, a former student, and then when I logged on to Twitter later that morning, her sister, Girl B also a former student, had followed me. Now, when I say former student, I mean, a kid that I’ve taught in primary school within the last five years.
To be perfectly clear here, I am actually connected via SoMe to a number of my former students – people I taught in my previous life as a high school teacher. They’re all grown up, and a number of them have young families of their own. And whilst I still refer to them as my kids, they are no longer children or teenagers, and we no longer have a student-teacher relationship. Anyway, back to the scenario . . .
I’m not sure what made these girls think that I would accept their friend requests, or allow them to follow me on Twitter. They weren’t the first, nor will they be the last. But here’s the thing: regardless of who these kids are, whether or not their parent/s are colleagues of mine, it will be a cold day in hell when I accept their friend requests or allow them to follow my Twitter accounts. As an education professional, it is career suicide to connect with these kids on any Social Media platform, and that’s not just my personal opinion. It’s often clearly stated by principals to their staff, and in fact, I’m vaguely aware of this being written down somewhere in policy.
Fitting in with this line of thinking is the idea of friending parents/guardians. Again, I may come across as hypocritical here because a few of my Facey friends are parents of booger eaters I teach. However, chances are that these parents are also former school classmates of mine too, or they are also colleagues. It’s a very fine line that I’m walking here, and I’m the first to admit that it’s fraught with danger and the potential for a lot of line crossing should things go pear shaped. I’m also quick to tell you that in one instance, things did go pear shaped in my eyes, and the solution was simple for me. When it was clear that the parent couldn’t draw the line between me as their booger eater’s teacher, and me as an acquaintance, I chose to block. The parent can no longer see anything I post, nor can I see anything the parent posts. I’m happy with that, but I have no idea what the parent thinks, and quite frankly, I’m not too fussed.
My concern, though, comes into play when I see that many of my colleagues have ‘friended’ these former students, the ones that have only just left primary school within the last few years. My concern is that by opening their accounts to these kids, any comment that I post to my colleagues’ walls is seen by these booger eaters. While my colleagues might not post things that are inappropriate for the booger eaters to see, or while my colleagues might not care what these booger eaters see of their personal lives, I do on both counts. Not everything that I post is appropriate for the eyes of lil booger eaters. Certainly many of my stories and blog posts are not G rated, and I have no desire for them to see my SoMe posts. My personal life is exactly that – personal. And before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, the majority of my SoMe profiles are private, locked, and only available to be seen by those I allow in.
Colleagues, do you understand that you are opening yourself up to potential cans of worms because of what these booger eaters see on your SoMe profiles? I don’t think you do. You are being incredibly stupid for people who are supposed to be at least reasonably intelligent. What you post on Social Media can be your downfall in a professional sense. Postings seen as inappropriate by the booger eaters parents can and will cost you your job and reputation. Postings seen by parents you are friends with, can and will be used against you if parents suddenly don’t agree with a call you’ve made on a professional level. Everything is ammunition, and you’re leaving yourself vulnerable to attack. Worse still, you’re opening up your colleagues’ SoMe profiles and leaving them also vulnerable to attack. On a common sense level, I have to wonder why you want to see the postings of kids?
I’ve said many times that I’m not a Social Media professional. I don’t know jack about Social Media, other than what I’ve picked up along the way through my own usage. However, a lil bit of common sense goes a long way. Think about what you’re doing when you accept that friend request from the former student who has only just left your esteemed education institution. Think about the other people you’re friends with – do they want kids to see their updates? Are their updates always appropriate for kids to see? How much trouble do you want to get yourself and your friends in to? How much ammunition and evidence do you want to provide parents, guardians, and ‘the establishment’ with, in terms of the maybe not so appropriate dealings you’re having with, and exposing booger eaters to?
Use your bloody brain before you friend a kid, people! As education professionals (yes, I’m talking not only to teachers, but also to education assistants/aides, administrators, and anyone else involved with the process of educating booger eaters), you’re supposed to be a lil more intelligent than other people, but your intelligence level doesn’t preclude you from exercising your common sense. Use it . . . and stop trying to be cool by friending booger eaters. In real life, admit it, we all think that the adults who have ‘friends’ who are booger eaters are a lil bit more than creepy.
If you don’t understand how particular SoMe platforms work, research them, learn about them, ask people who do use them what to do. Ignorance is not bliss where Social Media usage is concerned, but it can get you in to a hell of a lot of trouble.
Common sense. Remember those two words.