Social Media in Schools

A complicated issue is up for debate in Naperville Community Unit School District 203. The district’s administrators are working on a regulation that would allow teachers to send text messages and use the Facebook website to contact students. According to the Pew Research Center, 72% of teens text and 73% are on Facebook. The district wants to embrace the technology, and be able to relate to students.

“The key to all of these technologies is that none of them are bad technologies, they all can have an educational benefit. They key is to take the technology, integrate it into the classroom, and produce a positive result, “ says Roger Brunelle, Chief Information Officer for District 203.

The draft has two components, a written guideline and a color coded matrix. The matrix allows district employees, students, parents, and community members to learn which channels of communication would be appropriate to talk to one another.

In the matrix, all methods of communication in green are encouraged, yellow are approved with permission, and red is discouraged.

Under the current draft, text messaging and social networking sites like Facebook would be an approved way for teachers to contact their students, but only with a parent’s permission. Facebook and other social media would be used as a way to conduct lessons.

Currently, the draft has no age recommendations specified, but that could change with later versions. Students and parents have mixed feelings to the idea of teachers Facebooking and texting students.

“It’s kind of weird, because then a teacher has your cell phone and can contact you anywhere,” said James DioGiovanni, a sophomore at Naperville North High School.

“I’m ok with it, as long as they don’t take it to a level that’s inappropriate,” said Jackie Stanley, a sophomore at Naperville North.

Some fear the constant access to students could lead to inappropriate conduct, but Naperville police say the key is for parents to monitor messages in and out of their kids’ phones and Facebook accounts.

“Parents are responsible for their children, not only in their physical life, but their online life as well, and that includes their cell phone,” said Richard Wistocki, a detective with the Naperville Police Department Computer Crimes Unit.

The regulation is still in the draft phase, but District 203 officials hope to have it ready to issue in the next two months. The next step is to gather more information from parents, and then re-submit the draft to school principals.

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