The best thing about social media is that it can connect everyone. But do you know the worst thing about social media? That’s right: that it can connect everyone!
Teachers often have parents, and even students send them friend requests on Facebook and other forms of social media. This has led to an ongoing debate about whether a teacher should accept such a Facebook friend request.
Are you wondering whether to hit that “add friend” button? Keep reading to learn the answer to this surprisingly-complex question!
Here’s a spoiler: most of the time, the answer to whether you should accept a friend request from a parent is “no.” We break down the reasons why below, but we figured it would be good to start with the silver lining.
Generally, the parents who bother reaching out over social media are the “good’ parents. These are the ones who are most devoted to their child’s success in your class and beyond.
Should you and the parent become actual friends, you may find you have similar values and passions. If you are only friends online, though, then it can open up a world of trouble for you and your career!
It Gives Other People “Ammo”
Of course, that same devotion to their child’s success can turn ugly. For example, if the child fails a test or assignment, it is natural for many parents to turn around and blame the teacher!
This is bad enough when the parent is a relative stranger. However, if they are a Facebook friend, then they may be getting additional “ammo” to use against you in a formal dispute.
All of a sudden, they may be blaming the “bad grade” on your messy divorce or claim that you must have been drunk when grading because you went to a party. Hopefully, your employer will take your side, but it’s best not to give anyone ammo to use against you.
Friendship: The Double-Edged Sword
On its own, friendship is a beautiful thing. Human beings are social creatures, and we are all happier when we don’t feel isolated and alone. But the fulfilment you get from being Facebook friends with a parent can quickly become a double-edged sword.
Even if they don’t try to sell you out in a dispute (see the example above), they may get way too into your life. Do you want them trying to set you up with blind dates or inviting themselves to your child’s birthday party? If the answer is “no,” then you should keep your digital distance.
Privacy: A Thing of the Past
We tend to take our private lives for granted as teachers. When we deal with parents, it keeps things simple: all we have to focus on is the student and their performance.
Becoming Facebook friends with a parent makes all of that a thing of the past. All of a sudden, the parent may be judging you for your political beliefs, your weird sense of humour, and so on.
It ultimately makes you feel uncomfortable all of the time. As a professional, you are forced to either post nothing at all or live in constant paranoia of being judged for every post you make.
Other Sets of Eyes
As a related concern, you should be aware that anything that the parent can see is something that their children can see.
In some cases, parents will share the info with their child. In other cases, the child will look over their shoulder or overhear a conversation.
This heightens that sense of paranoia even more. Nobody wants to worry that their student will end up spreading rumours about their online life! It’s best not to open the door to such a risk at all.
The cornerstone of teaching is equality. Specifically, you are meant to treat all children equally and dole out the same opportunities as well as the same punishments.
However, when you become Facebook friends with a parent, they may suddenly expect favours. Some of them may request individual tutoring, extra credit, and so on because they see the two of you as close friends.
Make no mistake: giving the student these unique opportunities is highly inappropriate. Furthermore, it is difficult for many parents to understand why you are saying no, and this may cause a rift between you.
What’s the Alternative?
So, you are ultimately left with a problem. On one hand, becoming Facebook friends with a parent opens you up to several personal and professional dangers. On the other hand, it’s difficult to reject parents who earnestly want to help their child succeed.
If you have to reject someone, we recommend proposing some alternatives. Maybe you give them your work e-mail address or schedule additional parent/teacher conferences. And the truly brave may give such parents their mobile number.
Ultimately, you can make the parent happy by giving them a quick way to reach you without surrendering your sense of privacy and space.
Has this happened to you? Did you make a BIG mistake? Share you experience in the comments thread below.
Facebook Friend Requests From Parents. Should Teachers Accept?