The Problem with Facebook Is YOUR FRIENDS!

I know that since the Facebook Friending 101 for Schools I did here that my friend Sue Waters has since come out with a handy guide for Facebook over on Edublogger about the Why and How of Using Facebook for Educators. And Facebook has created their own Facebook For Educators guide. In this guide, Facebook notably DOES NOT talk about "friending students" per se. But does suggest using Facebook groups and pages.

Privacy Option Issues
The PROBLEM I have is point number three in Sue's edublogger article:

"Despite what you may hear, there are strong privacy options that you can set up so only those that you want can access your information"

The primary problem as I maintained in Facebook Friending 101 is NOT you. Although there are educators who post innappropriate things on their walls all of the time, MOST of you IF you are using it with your students are not. These privacy options ARE NOT ENOUGH for the scenarios I've presented.

The Loopholes are There
We've had a very long conversation over on my Facebook page about the loopholes that STILL EXIST in Facebook. Honestly, I want someone to prove me wrong on this. I would love to be able to friend my students and do all kinds of things on Facebook but there are several incidents I blogged about in the earlier post that almost landed our school in HOT WATER. AND IT WASN'T THE TEACHERS - it was the teacher's friends!!

Kids can see your wall and what friends post
So, a new educator I've met through the conversations on my Fanpage, Fred Roemer, has been using Facebook with his students but instead of just the emotional response of,

"I'm going to use Facebook with my students because I want to doggone it." foot stomp and walk off that most educators who are passionate about using Facebook do, Fred is getting in there and helping TEST the settings.

If we have more of us like him we can actually ASK Facebook for what we need to have to use with students. Here is what Fred Did and found. (You'll also see another progressive educator, Shani Benson in there testing it as well.)

Join this conversation

EVERYONE who is your Friend can see your Wall
Fred confirmed that your friends can see each other's replies on your wall if a person has access to that post in the first place. They can see each other and follow the link from there even if they cannot see it on the left.

Well, why do you care about that?

Profanity on Your Wall Most Likely Comes from Friends
A recent article on Mashable showed research from Reppler that surveyed 300,000 Facebook users and found that:

"47% of those users have profanity on their Facebook wall. Of those, 80% have at least one post or comment with profanity FROM A FRIEND. [emphasis mine] Posts and comments with profanity on a user's Facebook wall come from friends 56% per cent of the time."

I would venture to guess that for teachers that percentage is higher.

Students Stalk Teacher Pages
As I've been mulling this over in the weeks since I first saw Facebook 101 and have seen the people who insist that it is OK to use Facebook with students because this is not an issue, I've come across this comment that I reblogged on Tumblr.

Posted on

If you are friending them, they are all over your page.

I want to reiterate a bit about the incident that had us in Facebook Frenzy at our school without revealing too much information.

Someone in our community - an adult- posted HORRIBLE things on his page. Because the adults were friends and the students were friends with the teachers and adults, they were exposed to it. Some people blamed the school because of the link the school caused. The school's facebook IMMEDIATELY unfriended everyone and we went ONLY to a FanPage.

So, how about groups?
So, I got ready after reading Sue's post to set up groups and come back out with a way to do groups with my students. I could care less if I eventually have to retract EVERY word in Facebook Friending 101 for Schools and in fact, I pray that every issue there is dealt with so it is a NON issue.

So, I set up a group. BIG PROBLEM. You can only add your friends to your groups. Since I don't friend my students, I can't even start the group off. I don't know how I'm going to get the students in the group without some sort of friending/ unfriending shenanigans that I didn't have time for at the end of school.

Am I using Facebook at school?
YES. I have some authentic research from some of my Digiteen students that I can now go public with because the "sting operation" on their generation is over.

Operation Fake Facebook Friend
They created two profiles for "Operation Fake Facebook Friend" because they were concerned about the proliferation of fake Facebook profiles that everyone KNEW were there but people were friending because they wanted more friends. In three weeks each profile accumulated more than 300 friends with the girl profile reaching almost 500.

But the fact my students proved in their research is that students are indiscriminately friending people that they do not know and even more so friending profiles of people that THEY KNOW FOR A FACT ARE FAKE just to have more friends. Expect a full blog post on Operation Fake Facebook Friend later.

The School Fanpage Rocks
Our school Facebook Fan page is a hub of activity and has more subscribers than our e-newsletter. We have a group for Westwood alumni that many of us join.  The annual is planning on using surveys on our Facebook page to put in the annual. IT IS GREAT. We are using Facebook at our school. EVERY SCHOOL SHOULD HAVE A FANPAGE.

I wish Facebook were perfect because I love it.
I wish these weren't issues. But they are.

I like Facebook. It has a lot of potential. But right now the mix of personal and professional is not acceptable and the CONTROLS ARE NOT IN PLACE TO KEEP THOSE TWO PARTS OF AN EDUCATORS LIFE SEPARATE. PERIOD.

I wish I was wrong. I'm ready to be proven wrong. But so far, most people fall into either one camp or the other with very few in the middle trying to figure these things out.

Recommendations For Facebook Right Now
So, what can we do right now?

A Fan page seems to be the only way to go EXCEPT you can't make it private and someone could use it to target your students. So, it looks like creating a separate teacher account that you only use for school and using a group with your students while not forcing them to friend you is pretty much the only way we can use Facebook right now.

Let's Move Ahead
I know I'm going to get lectured and flamed again about how dumb I am that privacy settings are the way to go - but if you'll listen. THE PROBLEM IS NOT YOU, Teacher, IT IS YOUR FRIENDS.

And right now, it is that exposure that got me burned and I wouldn't be doing any kind of service to you as a reader and as someone I respect and admire if I just laid down and took the popular view on this issue.

Let's work through and test this issue. Head over to the Facebook post and let's TEST for goodness sake and start operating on fact instead of emotion

Facebook FACTS
The Fact is that Facebook is here to stay and we have to learn how to peacefully co-exist with this valuable tool in ways that protect students, our professional integrity, and allow us to have personal lives with our friends from college and beyond.

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