Whether you are an active participant or not, the popularity of social networking is pretty hard to ignore. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and the most recent Google Plus have captured the imagination of a media savvy generation of children and adults, with everyone bumping and colliding in an online melting pot of shared personal information. I have often wondered how I will feel when my children are old enough to set up their own online social networks: I am a blogger, Tweeter and sometime Facebooker myself, so I certainly won’t be naïve when it comes to the realities of participating in online communities and that gives me some comfort, at least.
But what happens when the lines between student and teacher begin to blur in cyberspace? It’s a reality being faced daily, with teachers repeatedly being asked to be their pupil’s Facebook friends. Social networking gone too far? Probably.
This issue was raised in an interesting article in The Irish Independent this week titled ‘Please Sir, will you be my Facebook friend?’ The article outlines the possible concerns of students having access to the information their teachers choose to share on their personal online accounts - personal, but not necessarily private information – and poses the question, how appropriate is it for students to be able to see photos and read about what their teachers were up to at the weekend.
For most teachers, it is clear that they feel there is a definite boundary and most will explain to their students why they won’t accept their ‘Friend’ request while at the same time, happily embracing social networking and using it in their teaching, where appropriate. I would expect that as social networking expands its reach and as more and more technology filters into our classrooms, this is an issue which is only going to get worse, not better.