The reality of today’s society is that we are always connected to technology. Just a few days ago, Apple launched its 10th smartphone, coming eight years after it launched the little iPhone that changed the world.
We take in a lot more than what our mobile devices offer us on the surface. Apps are made for news, gaming, and productivity. Most notable among these, however, is a relatively new term called social media apps, which have practically taken up our lives and our devices.
In a research study conducted by Mobile Statistics, they found that the average person spends 90 minutes a day on his or her phone. By the end of that person’s life, he or she is likely to spend about three years staring at his or her phone screen.
So why do we spend so much time in a virtual reality? Why has our social reputation become so important to our well-being that we have to expose every moment of our lives to the online world? Why do we want to be seen at all costs?
For Montgomery County teachers and students, they cannot be seen at all costs. Their audience has a limitation.
The Board has held for various years since the rise of social media sites that teachers are strictly prohibited from friending or following students on social media sites including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Kevin Ming Pan, a senior at Richard Montgomery HS, believes in social media as an effective outlet of communication for educational purposes.
“I think that it should be allowed, since social media provides another means of communication making it simpler for the student to connect with the teacher,” said Pan.
Many of the teachers who spoke with us said they were friends with some of their upper classmen students on social media. Most teachers agreed that being friends with their students was not recommended if the teachers were young or not experienced in the field of education.
Among one of the greatest concerns for teachers is that if they do accept a friend request from a student unknowingly, or by accident, they may have to face consequences as severe as—well, no one really knows the consequences.
The main reason why MCPS has this rule instituted is in hopes that it discourages the rising amount of teachers found interacting with students in inappropriate ways.
Essentially, the argument is that teachers have no business in their students’ personal lives. If there are teachers watching students’ everyday lives on-demand, it creates huge ethical and social problems.
Case A: Student goes to a party with drugs and alcohol and posts pictures on Facebook. Teacher is put in position where he or she has to tell administration and do the morally ‘right’ thing but risk being seen badly, tell the student (even though it is not their responsibility in any way shape or form), or not tell anybody and do the morally ‘wrong’ thing.
Teachers are expected to teach on an objective level. They can, when asked to, provide guidance and moral help. But when you let teachers into the lives of their many students, you bind them to offer aid even when the student has not express the desire for aid.
This causes a problem, because the teacher now sees the student in a different light because of a virtual profile, whether in a positive or negative way. Thus, teachers would be expected to treat students more subjectively than ever–whether it comes to grading them or letting them stay in after class to talk.
In general, however, there seems to be an overall consensus among the student body that social media relationships amongst staff and themselves would be beneficial to the learning environment, providing one more outlet to communicate with teachers.
There are many new questions to ponder constantly. There are teachers who use Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and texting for educational purposes. Should the teachers be required to stop friending their students even if they have a system they have been using for years? What constitutes responsible use of social media? What about the coaches and the club sponsors: will they be required to quit using social media to sponsor their events?
Whatever the answers to these questions, the issue remains a very delicate one, involving teachers’ discernment and livelihood and students’ safety.
Column by the MoCo Student Opinions Editor Darian Garcia of Richard Montgomery High School