Mike LaBella of the Eagle Tribune in North Andover, Massachusetts recently wrote an article about a local school preparing a new social networking policy for it's staff. From the article:
School officials said electronic social networking has become a useful tool in connecting teachers with students and parents. But the officials said due to the very nature of electronic communication, there is a risk of blurring the lines between a teacher’s professional life and personal life.
School officials say they encourage electronic communication between teachers and students, as well as their parents and guardians, but urge teachers to do so using school-based resources, such as email provided by the school. Officials say it would acceptable to have a Facebook account for communicating with students, parents or others within the school community, as long as it is strictly used for discussing matters directly related to education and is not associated with a teacher’s personal Facebook account or email.
The article has some good points, but what I keep finding is that schools and other organizations are not considering any middle ground, perhaps because it doesn't exist... or perhaps because they want a quick fix, immediate and drastic action for the "effect," or simply because they don't believe there is any good to be accomplished outside of the classroom.
I posted the following comment on the article:
I'm curious what you all think about a concept I've been considering. It's an electronic communication system that allows teachers, coaches, youth pastors, and other leaders to safely interact with today's youth using today's technology all while keeping parents "in the loop" with regular notices showing them all of the communication between their kids and the adults in their lives. No child or teacher has to share their personal contact info with the other, and parents are involved from the get-go with who can and who can't communicate with their kids electronically.
Today's tech offers some great ways to send quick bursts of information, but because it typically requires exposing our personal information, it does leave open the door for accidental misuse or intentional misuse, and I hate to see the baby thrown out with the bath water, which is unfortunately what most schools are doing today.
Teachers and others adults have great potential to affect and build into the lives of today's teens, but unless boundaries are well established ahead of time, reactions such as this are the only thing we'll have as options.
The system is in beta right now at http://www.me2u.us. I'd love to get your thoughts as to it's application in areas such as this and how we might help schools, teams, and churches more aware that there IS a safe, effective middle ground between "ban" and "endorse."