“A Facebook teaching moment”

In the NY Times Ethicist column “A Facebook teaching moment,” Randy Cohen responds to a query about an eighth grade teacher who has a Facebook account where she friends students and where she sees things about under-age drinking, drug use, and school cheating. He suggests that the teacher ought to make students aware that she is aware of their bad behavior and about the less than private nature of Facebook:

Strictly speaking, when these students gave her access to their Facebook pages, they waived their right to privacy. But that’s not how many kids see it. To them, Facebook and the like occupy some weird twilight zone between public and private information, rather like a diary left on the kitchen table. That a photo of drunken antics might thwart a chance at a job or a scholarship is not something all kids seriously consider. This teacher can get them to think about that.

I generally agree with this advice, though it seems to me that since these students are eighth graders, the teacher might a) have a different obligation to report bad behavior to the proper authorities, and b) not want to be Facebook friends with her students. It’s one thing for me to friend my college-aged and legal adult students; it’s quite another to friend tweens.

I also think it’s worth mentioning/remembering that this lack of privacy of Facebook is a two-way street, and some of the most explosive Facebook problems in K-12 schools in the last year or so have involved teachers who forgot that their Facebook accounts were public spaces.

This might be good for 516 in the winter term.

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