CNN posted an interesting story about teachers setting up MySpace pages and “friending” their students…and about a Missouri legislator sponsoring a bill banning elementary school teachers from doing so. I was talking to Justin about this, and we both agree that a state bill banning this activity is completely overboard (another example of how politicians feed into the existing moral panic about these sites). We also both agree that school districts should have their own policies about whether teachers and students can interact through social networking sites. My personal opinion is that the vast majority of teachers and students would use the tool for beneficial and productive purposes, but that there is a slippery slope effect that would take place. It is way too easy to move from talking about school assignments to asking more “personal” (though innocent) questions to sharing private worldviews and engaging in candid self-disclosure with another person online. Anonymity and geographical distance while online, coupled with feelings of loneliness and the desire to connect with someone (anyone) when individuals interact through computer-mediated communication, make inappropriate messages between teachers and students a very real possibility. I feel pretty strongly about this based on communications research done in the evolution of romantic relationships on the Internet. Yes, I am aware of age and maturity differences between teachers and students. Yes, I am aware that some might think I’m being a bit overprotective and old-school. I just believe that the standard way of communication between elementary and secondary school teachers and students is perfectly fine and may not need enhancing. Students need to learn to talk with competence and eloquence in-person with adults, rather than having the crutch of typing things out all the time. This comes with opportunity and practice. With post-secondary instructors and students – the potential for problems still exist, but I am much more fine with using social networking sites to connect with each other for the purposes of education and learning. This topic is super fascinating and I would love to hear more thoughts. Clearly I could go on, but I will leave it for now at that.