This past week I was asked to advise on guidelines for teacher-student interactions in social media settings such as Facebook. Essentially, we’re recommending caution. The new guidelines will be posted in faculty handbooks, and read as follows:
Faculty/Staff members should maintain professionalism in their relationship with students at all times. Activities/behaviors in which faculty/staff members should not participate with students include, but are limited to the following:
1) Posting student pictures on web-based social network sites (Facebook, MySpace etc)
2) Exchange cell phone numbers with students
3) Participate in inappropriate text messaging with students
4) Participate in inappropriate e-mail correspondence with students
The key word here is “inappropriate.” Unfortunately, no definition is given as to what might be considered inappropriate. There are the obvious reasons – the unfortunate ones that make headlines. However, is ANY contact via e-mail or text messaging between teachers and students appropriate? Our paranoid society would cast suspicion on any of these activities.