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Teachers Use "Friend" as a Verb
Teachers understand that there is a technology gap separating them from their students, and some are turning to social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook to help bridge the gap.
Randy Turner, a 52-year-old teacher in Missouri told CNN, “Just the very fact that I have a MySpace makes [my students] think, ‘Well, maybe we can talk to this guy and open the lines of communication.’” Turner says he realized this was a major way of communication for them and wants to use these web sites to connect with his students about homework, tutoring and other school-related matters.
Though many teachers are hoping to use social networking sites to their and their students’ advantages, others fear the sites will foster inappropriate relationships between students and teachers.
Missouri state legislator Jane Cunnighman is sponsoring a bill to ban elementary school teachers from having social-networking friendships with students. The state has had instances of student-teacher sexual relationships and legislators want to crackdown on these online relationships.
Though Turner understands where legislators are coming from he says, “You can’t argue with people whose intentions are trying to protect children. But the simple fact is, you take these people who prey on children and they are going to find a way to do it, whether it’s over Facebook or not. Those teachers are ruining it for the ones legitimately trying to help children.”
Some schools have set up web sites for students and teachers to communicate that are hosted by their school districts. Education Lawyer Jim Keith says these class pages eliminate the need for Facebook or MySpace and allow the schools to monitor all communication. “As an educator, there is a line of demarcation between you and your student,” says Keith. "It’s a line that you cannot come close to, let alone step over.”
Other states, school boards, teacher and parent-teacher associations throughout the country are also trying to crack down on online friendships.
If you are an educator, how do you feel about online friendship with your students? As a parent, do you think these online relationships are appropriate? If you are a student, let us know if you are friends with your teachers and professors and how you handle not crossing the line. [CNN]