Is it Okay to Have Your Child’s Teacher as Facebook Friend?
Parents active on social media may be tempted to connect with their kid’s teacher on online forums. But would that blur the professional and personal boundaries? We look at the pros and cons
By Sahana Charan
Priya often goes to her daughter’s school to help as a volunteer at events and school meets. As she shared a cordial relationship with her 12-year-old’s class teacher, Priya sent her a friend request on Facebook.The teacher accepted reluctantly. Now, every time the teacher posts her thoughts or shares pictures, Priya is tempted to peek and make comments. If the teacher is out on a school night, Priya wonders, “She was partying last night, she must be tired in school. Will she be able to concentrate on teaching the students?”
Priya also queried the teacher about her daughter’s performance and behaviour in school. The teacher found this an invasion of her personal space and asked the mother to connect with her only at school meets.
Looking at the above scenario, would it be a good idea to befriend your child’s teacher on social media or would it be better to maintain a strict professional relationship that does not go beyond the school? Read on and decide for yourself.
An All-Pervading Influence
Social media is a vital part of our communication with peers and loved ones. It is not only an important tool for personal exchange, but also used by communities and forums to share information, post official messages and so on. While most of us are captivated by the instant connect that social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook provide, a few others do lament the lack of face-to-face interactions. Social media helps break down walls, but it also creates a false perception of camaraderie.
According to the Global Web Index, people regularly using the Internet have an average of seven social media accounts. Facebook’s own reports say that an average user spends as much as 50 minutes on the platform.
So, it is not unusual for parents to come across the teacher on the platform and be tempted to send a friend request. But look before you leap, say experts.
Always under scrutiny
Dr Anita Gautam, Director, Clinical Operation and Consultant Psychiatrist at Gautam Hospital and Research Center, Jaipur, makes these observations:
- When a teacher receives a Facebook friend request from a student’s parent or vice versa, the first thought may be – what is the harm in accepting? After all, everyone posts pictures, likes and comments, so it should not be that different in a parent-teacher relationship. But look a little deeper and you realise that your whole personality, your background, religious and political beliefs, your pictures and your interactions with others are up for public scrutiny. The parent may judge the teacher based on her personal and professional capacity.
- In our society, a teacher is held in high esteem and may be looked upon as someone who sets a high moral and social example for others to follow. Even during the parent-teacher meets in schools, everyone maintains a certain decorum and discussions are mostly confined to the child and his educational performance.
- It can also happen the other way – teacher’s may judge the child based on what her parents post on social media. For example, if a teacher finds out that a child comes from a single-parent family, she may judge the child based on her assumptions.
- Parents of other children who are taught by the particular teacher, may assume that she is partial to students whose parents are her Facebook friends. All this can mar the amiable parent-teacher relationship.
"Most schools have rules prohibiting teachers from sharing their phone numbers with parents. These days, you have some parents who are over-anxious and constantly bug teachers with queries about their children. This could easily spill onto the social network space and then it can get uncomfortable. There could be arguments and judgements passed on social media. That is why, most schools do not encourage social networking between parents and teachers,” - Ruth Anand, educationist.
Provide a Deeper Understanding
Despite the many arguments against social media connect between parents and teachers, there are some who believe it could be beneficial. Instead of mixing the personal with the professional, social networking may give a parent the opportunity to be more empathetic towards her child’s teacher. “It eliminates the fear of the unknown. We realise that they are also human like us,” is how one parent puts it.
Considering that social media has the potential of being a great communication vehicle, could it facilitate a better understanding between parents and teachers?
Some parents agree. “Personally, I do not see any harm in befriending my child’s teacher on Facebook. In fact, I have a cordial relationship with my children’s teachers and most of them are my friends on Facebook. It is a great way of getting information about the various programmes that happen in school, as the teachers often post pictures of the events. We can stay updated on the goings on in the school, but we should be careful not to be too intrusive. The teachers’ also post valuable links that can be helpful for parents,” says Aparna Rao, mother of a 16-year-old girl and 11-year-old boy.
If a parent has befriended a teacher on FB, here are some dos and don’ts:
- Maintain the same decorum and professional relationship online with the teacher, which you would while interacting in a parent-teacher meet.
- Avoid prying into the personal posts of your child’s teacher or make personal observations about her or her family.
- Do not make school-related queries or ask the teacher about your child’s academic performance on the social network platform.
- If the teacher prefers not to respond to your queries or remarks on FB, maintain a safe distance. She may not be comfortable answering queries from parents in FB posts.
- Being figures of authority, teachers should also be careful about what they post online. Adjust the FB settings accordingly, based on who can be allowed to see the posts.
With inputs from Dr Debarati Halder, a cyber law specialist.
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