The argument of private vs social networks continues, as another battle of ‘what to share and with whom’ takes place in America. Who is it appropriate to be sharing your daily thoughts and opinions with? Does community standing and age come in to play when deciding what you should be legally allowed to share publicly? Or are something things best kept for private sharing with a select group of people?
A piece of proposed legislation in the US state of Missouri regarding Facebook relationships between teachers and students has been repealed. The original state senate bill, colloquially known as the “Facebook Law” would have made Facebook friendships between teachers and students, as well as any sort of social networking, illegal. Quite predictably this was met by some opposition, with teachers complaining that the ban would have been unconstitutional and might be a hinderance upon education.
There were concerns from the Missouri State Teachers Association about their First Amendment rights, and after suing the state over the law, they were awarded an injunction two days before the law was meant to go into effect in August. State policy has since been amended, and the new bill signed on Friday by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon means that all school districts within the state will have until March 2012 to create their own policies on social networking.
This story does raise some interesting points in terms of what is acceptable, and what is inappropriate. They way I see it, social networking is just another form of communication – the law makers have no problems with teachers speaking to their students face to face in a class room, nor do they feel the need to stop them exchanging emails. But given the type and amount of information that can be shared on social networks such as Facebook, the situation becomes slighty trickier. There should exist certain barriers between those placed in positions of trust and responsibility, and those who are under their guidance. Too often we hear of situations whereby those in positions of trust engage in inappropriate and sometimes illegal relations with younger people.
That’s not to say that the likes of Facebook are to blame for these instances occurring – people are who they are. One of the comments I saw on the original article about the Missouri case seemed like a really good idea: if teachers want to converse with their students outside of the classroom they could create their own page. That way students can receive updates from their teacher that are to do with academic work, and the page can act as a self populating FAQ for the curriculum. If for example someone is struggling with a particular part of an assignment, they might ask the question on the wall, and other students will be able to benefit from the response.
But when it comes to what should be shared and what shouldn’t, sometimes it’s better to communicate and share privately. Someone in a position of responsibility may have much knowledge to impart, yet by granting minors access to their social networking feed the dependents may become exposed to unsuitable material. This story in Missouri is one of many instances where a selective, private network is the answer to sharing problems.