Should teachers and students be "friends" on social networking sites?

I was recently sent this article about teachers accepting the "friendship" of their students on Facebook and after reading it, I have thoughts, but I am wondering what others think.
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/6174564.html

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My response: unless the actions are school sanctioned they are off limits. A teacher has many avenues of communication between students, parents, and home without using social networks. If a teacher decides to use a social network as part of the class then expectations need to be established ahead of time and parents/administration kept informed. I think much of the issues surrounding social networking, though, will play out in the next decade. I expect many districts by then may have a social network system kinda like moodle/blackboard meets myspace.
Friends? No. Acquaintances...maybe. I think the best practice is to look at the virtual world as the mirror it is to reality. You wouldn't hang around in social settings (in general) with your students in the real world, so why would you in virtual space? Bumping into each other at the home game or in the grocery store is normal. Hi, How ya doin'? But, hanging out on someone's page is pretty much the same as hanging out in their living room where Hi, How ya doin? can take on a whole new meaning. You most likely wouldn't open yourself up to the ethical can of worms hanging out at a students would entail, so why do so virtually?
Let's face it, while Facebook may be a great tool for conecting with old friends the same adage goes with this tool: keep your work life and personal life separate. You cannot be "friends" with your students because of the great risk you pose to yourself. I have heard of stories where teachers befriended former students and said students talked about the parties attended together, "as a joke", however, these exchanges were enough to bring that teacher before the board regarding their online activities. Use the tools that are approved of by your school to foster communication. It just is not professional in my opinion.

I agree with Scott that if there are networks in place to be used at school then rules/expectations should be in place to keep parents/administration aware of how this network is to be used. That's my two cents. Cheers and happy holidays.
I totally agree with you.
After some thought, I would say: no. Not until that student has graduated and has attained the status of an adult (I'm going to say 18 or over -- college freshman at least). There may instances where this could work, but the professional risks (especially in a K-12 environment) are just too great. Remember: Facebooks is at base a social site, even if you're using it for quasi-professional purposes.

If there's the slightest doubt ... just say "no."
At our school (11 - 16 years) we have a number of teaching and support staff on facebook. The issue of student friendship has been raised and discussed re. concerns about e-safety and professionalism. We have decided as a staff that current students and staff are not to be friends. Once the students have left and moved on then it is an option at staff's discretion.

Students have been spoken to about this face to face and have accepted that it is appropriate.
I completely agree with you. When you are their current teacher there should not be a friendship in social media. Once they are no longer students then it should be the discretion of the teacher. I like finding my old teachers because it gives me the opportunity to share with them what they have helped to mold.
on Facebook, I would say no because this social network is according to me unappropriate to an educational use for many reasons. On Ning I would say yes because in our educational social network School Beyond the Walls, we host hundreds of teachers, students and parents from more than 60 countries and I have taken precautions with my own students by asking to their parents an authorization... Our experimentation is now more than one year old: no problem to accept the friendship with these settings...
Vincent,
I feel that Ning has a better chance of success as you can maintain control over membership that public forums such as facebook are too open. I will have a look at your example.
Dear Andy,

you're right, it's easy to maintain control with ning... i have just given some strict rules to my students about safe on the internet, and it's amazing to see how students, even the youngest, respect them and enjoy to use our network for homework and schoolwork... For example one of my students is able to create very useful videos with Movie Maker... some examples: her video "China and its calligraphy" both in french and in english... Or they post themselves drawings, texts and vokis about the topics we are studying, for example for the 60th birthday of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, last december 10th...

Most of all, the interactions between teachers and students can improve easily work in progress, like for this activity around Ancient Egypt... I give them a document (from British Museum !), they write about it online, and i can easily give suggestions and propose corrections with the ning tools... Very simple... So forget Facebook and use Ning :)

When my students write me, as Michael explain below, it's just about their work, when they need help or to ask me to correct. Nothing wrong about it :)
I think the best practice is to look at the virtual world as the mirror it is to reality.

One of my students (high school junior) referred several times in small talk before class about the fact that the car she used to get to school (from a small community fifteen miles out) was way past due for an oil change. She had no money and no knowledge of how to change oil. I asked her whether I she would let me change it.

She agreed. I made sure her mother knew about the arrangement and approved. I met her at a public place (a WalMart parking lot--she brought a friend) after school, with tools, oil pan, oil can for used oil, tarp, etc. and spent a half hour visiting with her and changing her oil. Then she got in her car and drove home and I got in mine and drove home.

Some of the kids I work with need something more than academic instruction. I look for chances to interact informally outside the classroom. I work at projecting an image that is interested, helpful, friendly and appropriate, just as I do in person. I avoid actions or conduct that might be misconstrued.

I've used MySpace to keep an after school photography club organized. I suggested other ways but the students wanted MySpace. The club looks for opportunities for people to hang out and get to know one another in more informal ways than in a classroom. There are of course things that would be inappropriate to do or say either in person or online, and one should always be aware that things written hang around and that they can be easily misconstrued.

I've been reassured by what I've seen in MySpace, at least with the few kids I'm working with. They are quite normal kids, much the same online as they are in person. It's not scary.

One of the boys did present a different persona online than in person--a raunchier version of himself. I never sent him a message and I quickly removed him as my "friend."

I don't read the profiles or personal things unless I'm specifically invited to. One girl invited me as a friend because she wanted me to respond to the poems she was posting on her blog. She lets me know when she has posted something she wants me to read, and I read it and comment. I always keep in mind that my comments can be copied and forwarded.

I imagine the attitudes and the policies already mentioned here will prevail, and they are reasonable. But it's a sad thing, I think. What's a kid in need of an adult friend supposed to do?
I do not feel this is appropriate at all. I feel that the teachers and students should not be corresponding over Facebook pages. It is unprofessional and could lead to a lot of trouble. I agree with the comment below relating it to inviting a student into your living room. Running into a student out and about is one thing, but purposefully inviting them to your online world is a completely different thing.

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