Should your child be Facebook friends with his teacher?

Q:I was surprised to see that my child’s teacher accepted her as a friend on Facebook. Is that allowed by most schools?

A: Rules about social networks and teachers vary from school district to school district. Some districts simply advise faculty to make responsible choices when it comes to connecting with students online through social networks, while others have made policies to forbid it completely.

You can check your local district policies, but if your child’s teacher accepted a friend request, chances are your district does not have a strict ruling on the subject.

Whenever a child is connecting with an adult, parents should be aware of the situation. While there can be benefits for teachers and kids connecting through Facebook, there can also be complications. Teachers who allow minors to connect with their network will have to be vigilant if they are mixing their student network with their personal lives.

Not sure if you are comfortable with the idea? Ask yourself these questions:

Is the teacher’s profile school-centered? The teacher might create a fan page based on the class, a book, a class project or a sport he coaches. This type of network sets a theme for conversation around a particular activity or group and allows students to ask questions, contribute ideas, get information and discuss activities.

Does your child have a unique connection offline with the teacher? If the teacher is a family friend, tutor, counselor or coach, the online connection may be mirroring the offline relationship.

Do you recognize other students? Notice how many other students have also “friended” this teacher. If you don’t see any familiar faces or other young teens on the teacher’s friend list, you may want to monitor the conversation.

Can you see the teacher’s profile? Depending on privacy settings, you may be able to see the teacher’s postings and profile without actually “friending” her. If not, you won’t be able to see beyond posts or messages that appear on your child’s account.

Is the teacher’s network kid friendly? Even an adult who models responsible online behavior can be caught off guard when old college friends post material. Anytime your child connects with an adult, they also have access to other adults and adult content.

Does the teacher know you’re watching? Teachers who have a public setting will be aware that their profiles and posts are available to the world. If you can’t see the teacher’s posts or are uncomfortable with your child connecting with the teacher, talk with the teacher offline and in private about the situation.

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