If you’ve ever bumped into a teen you serve out in the “real” world, outside of the comfortable confines of the library, the interaction may have left you a little unsettled. Your personal life–your private life–is yours, right? You do things outside of work that you wouldn’t do in front of (or with) teens.

So what happens when you bump into a teen in the online world?

The way I see it, you have three choices when it comes to interacting with teens via social media.

1. Don’t Do It. Just don’t. Lock down your Facebook profile, never accept a friend request from a teen, keep your Twitter stream private and don’t allow any teens to follow you. I know plenty of librarians and educators who choose this option, and in fact an increasing number of of school districts are enacting policies to discourage (or outright forbid) teachers from “fraternizing” with students online.

2. Keep It Professional. Either maintain separate profiles for your work self and your personal self–interacting with teens only through the work profiles–or lock down your settings so that teens can only access so much. One of the easiest ways to do this is to create a list for students in your Facebook settings. Any teen you add as a friend automatically gets the most stringent settings–no access to your photos or videos, no access to your wall, no interaction with your other friends.

3. Take the Plunge. Let teens follow you on Twitter. Make mistakes, and learn from them. Find out why teens want to interact with you online. Is it because this is the way they prefer to communicate? If so, your library is making a mistake if you don’t have a presence in this world. Is it because they like what you have to say, and are taking the opportunity to “hang out” with you outside of the library?

If the thought of teens finding you on Facebook or Twitter strikes fear in your heart, maybe you should take a long, hard look at your profile and figure out why. If it’s because you want to keep your life to yourself, consider option 2; that way, you can reach out to teens on behalf of the library without compromising your own boundaries. But if you want the chance to see what teens are really saying to each other online, take a deep breath, and try option three.

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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