Saturday, October 19, 2019

Three Reasons Why Teachers Should NEVER Save Parents on Facebook

Three Reasons Why Teachers Should NEVER Save Parents on Facebook

Has this ever happened to you? You log into your favorite social media site, ready to post those phenomenal pics from your weekend getaway when you notice that you have two new friend requests waiting in your inbox? You ignore them just long enough to post those breathtaking beach pictures, and there staring at you from your inbox is Mrs. Smith, the mother of little Sally from your class. In that split second, you have to make a decision

Should you (and yes, this is a pop quiz):
A.    Accept her friend request; I mean for crying out loud, you see this woman every day as she drops off her child. Plus, Sally is sweet, and Mrs. Smith is the room mom. What could be the harm in that?
B.    Commence to cringe and panic and log off of the app all at the same time.
C.    Deny her request and keep adding more pics from the weekend.

Well, whatever answer you choose, I am here to give you my top 3 reasons why you should NEVER befriend students' parents on social media! 

For many of us, social media has become such a HUGE part of how we interact and build community. It's the place where we post cute pictures of our pets, stay connected with our college besties, or catch up on the latest pop topics. Most importantly, it is our way to stay connected to the world around us, and that is truly AWESOME. 

However, as many of us know, social media usage can have its pitfalls. 

We have all heard some array of stories about someone sharing (or maybe oversharing) information that has gotten them into hot water. Perhaps it was a picture or a comment that caused them to lose their job or to become the center of a scandal or investigation. For these reasons, we typically inform students about the importance of internet safety. Just like our students need to practice internet safety, it is equally essential that we, as educators, practice internet safety. One of the best ways to start is by being more private with our social media accounts. 

Although it might be tempting to share our lives with the world, opening our lives up to the critique of our students' parents and families could result in unnecessary stress. For that reason, here are my top 3 reasons why we should AVOID saving students' parents and families on Facebook and other social media apps. 

1.    Professionalism and the Separation of You as a Teacher with you as a Person-
Every aspect of your life SHOULD not be shared with your students and their families. Remember, in most cases, social media is your way of sharing 'you' with the world. The real you! The after 9-5 you. And as hard it may be to comprehend, parents (and students) don't need to know that side of you. Sometimes teachers need to hear this— you are a professional with talents and expertise and amazing skills, and you should be treated as such. Therefore, when we open up our worlds for everyone to view, we rip off that veil of professionalism. 
Maybe it's your latest, ridiculous, over the top, Halloween costume or you dancing on tables at your best friend's bachelorette party. These are all little things that could alter the way parents and families view you as their child's instructional leader. Now, I know what you are about to say, 'I don't do those things so that wouldn't be a problem.' Just remember that ANYTHING  you post, even if it's time with your family, makes parents too familiar with you as a person and not as their child's teacher! 

2.    Remember everything is up for interpretation—
Be it political affiliation, religious beliefs, or lifestyle preference. As much as we would love to believe that people don't judge our lives, they do! With that said, everything that we post will be interpreted by parents, either positively or negatively. Even down to the d├ęcor and cleanliness of your home. Ridiculous, I know, but true. Consciously and subconsciously, parents will use that information to either validate or invalidate you as a teacher.  So, avoid the hassle! 

3.    EVERYTHING will be shared! 
Maybe you don't know this, but EVERYTHING is shared. Taking a screen shot or saving a photo or comment takes only a few seconds and can be blasted to large numbers of people within moments. So, keep in mind that when you save one parent on social media, you essentially save them all. A simple post that had a stressful day and need a glass of wine at 3pm could signal to a message to parents that you had a rough day. Now, if you post that message multiple times, it can indicate that you are overwhelmed by your students and don't have control of your classroom. The most innocent of comments or pictures can be interpreted in the wrong way. 

Now that you know why, what do you do next?

If you have already accepted a parent's social media friend request, don't panic. Just remember in the future that this may not be the best practice and be mindful of the ways the things you post and share can be interpreted. 
Now, if you have already received a parent's request and you have yet to reply here are a few tips:

  •  Politely decline the request IN PERSON! The next time you see the parent, just let them know that you saw their request, and you have a policy of keeping your home life and your school life separate. This can seem like a tough conversation; however, if you are gracious about it, most parents will understand.
  • Create a public teacher page where you can save other educators, parents, and, eventually, students. This way, you can post great articles, videos, and even images that relate to your role as the teacher. Having a public teacher page can help families and students stay connected without being connected to your personal life.
  • Make a formal announcement- If the requests become overwhelming, you may have to make an announcement. Just like declining in person, if you receive numerous social media requests, write a short but sweet statement and include it on the class website or one week in your newsletter. I've even had the conversation during our 'open house' night at the beginning of the year. I said it in a joking manner, but parents understood and respected my reasoning.

Now what do you think? Have you ever saved your students' parents or families on social media? What was the outcome? Share your thoughts below!