28 Days of Teens & Tech #16: What’s Happening?

Most of the chatter in the education world around teens and technology focuses on meeting teens where they are and bringing educators up to speed with contemporary tech usage, integrating established curriculum with new tools. But for those of us who actually fall under the definition of Millennials (or Generation Y) along with the teens we work with, all this us versus them talk has gotten tiresome. We, too, grew up playing video games, text heavily, and flocked to social networks. We’ve learned the language and the tools of the professional world, but in our personal lives (and, increasingly, at work) we’re communicating in much the same way that teens do.

So what happens when we’re communicating with teens, but not at work?

Norton High School in Massachusetts made headlines last October when administrators proposed a new policy barring teachers from interacting with students–even former students–on social networking sites and contacting students with personal phones. Schools across the country have made similar moves, arguing that “professional distance” is important for educators–and for teens.

And I say hogwash.

What is so dangerous about an adult communicating with a teen in the way that best suits both of them? The Globe article I linked warns that teachers interacting with students on social networking sites “gives students a broader look into teachers’ personal lives, and risks exposing them to adult content.” The horrors!

Okay, if you’re truly posting “adult content” without restricting your privacy settings (meaning everyone from your 13 year old niece to your work buddies and your grandmother can see your photos), then yes, accepting friend requests from your students probably isn’t a great idea. But what if the club you’re advising has a private Facebook page? What if you’re checking yearbook page proofs online and want to quickly point something out to an editor? What if you like to tweet about your cat throwing up and you actually don’t mind if your teens see you as human?

I know that some librarians maintain separate work and personal accounts for things like Twitter and Facebook, but I just don’t want to deal with the hassle of switching identities. I’m the same person at work that I am at home, just covered in slightly less cat hair. If we can’t trust adults to use common sense when it comes to communications with students, how can we expect to help teens learn about these same boundaries?

About mk Eagle

I'm the librarian at Holliston High School, a bit west of Boston. In my spare time I advise my school's yearbook and Gay Straight Alliance, write about food, and root for the Red Sox.
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2 Comments

  1. I’ve got to agree….

    I’ve tried adding my school librarians on book review sites because they always read or recommended books I loved in high school. I couldn’t because they were afraid of trouble with the district.

    What’s the harm in letting them recommend me a couple books when I’m not in high school anymore?

    Or what about teachers that really changed something for you, and you want to let them know how you’re using the knowledge or lessons they taught you now.

    It’s good feedback and will let teachers perfect their practice, it’ll only rise the expectations or techniques of educators anyways.

  2. The last line of the post really says it all I think:

    “If we can’t trust adults to use common sense when it comes to communications with students, how can we expect to help teens learn about these same boundaries?”

    It really is all about common sense and professionalism. As adults we should know what is behavior and interaction that is acceptable with teens and what isn’t. I keep thinking about the fact that I might run into a teen at a movie on a weekend. Do I run away or ignore her? No, I say “hi” and probably even talk with her about the movie. I would use my common sense in the conversation, but I would still have the conversation.

    It seems that so many times adults in schools and libraries focus on what’s different about the technology. But, what about focusing on what’s the same between what we do in tech life and what we do in non-tech life? What’s the same is that we talk to teens both inside and outside of school – face-to-face and via technology. When we do we use common sense. That’s it. It’s that simple.

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