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Video: Should teachers be friends with students?

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    >>> raging debate over school, social media , and your kids. should students and teachers be friends on-sites like facebook ? savannah guthrie 's has one woman's cautionary tale.

    >> we've all embraced this idea of communicating with each other on facebook or twitter. but for one north carolina young woman , her facebook friendship with a teacher took her down a slippery slope . 19-year-old alecia like so many others her age has known to spend up to four hours a day on facebook .

    >> i probably have about 400 facebook friends, and most of them are people that i had met face to face .

    >> reporter: but just over two years ago when she was a junior in high school she got an unexpected friend request, from her teacher.

    >> i didn't think anything of it because i wasn't a stranger. it was someone i knew, someone i trusted.

    >> reporter: and it was that trust in him that took the relationship to a different level. the conversations became about more than just math class.

    >> i remember that we were talking online one night and had to fix the situation that was going on at home. when i came back i was crying and i was really upset. and he could tell. and he asked me what was wrong. i kind of opened up and told him what was going on, how misunderstood i felt, how alone i felt, and that's when it kind of all started to change into a more flirtatious atmosphere.

    >> reporter: the relationship became physical, and the communication moved from the computer to her teacher's home. alecia knew she was in trouble.

    >> i hated myself because i knew i was smarter than that. but at the same time, being understood by someone finally for once in four or five years, it was nice. and that's probably what kept me going over there.

    >> reporter: after a few months alecia put an end to the relationship and reported her teacher to the authorities. he got sentenced to probation for 18 months and had to register as a sex offender .

    >> i don't understand why somebody would do that to someone else . i don't understand why you would take a vulnerable teenage girl who already has self-esteem issues and bring her down to that point.

    >> reporter: and although alecia'is story is treextreme, it's more common than you might think. a magazine poll said 59% of facebook friends are teachers.

    >> boundaries are blurred and disappear. the student-teacher relationship that is very dangerous.

    >> reporter: now lawmakers are getting involved. this month, the state of missouri passed a law that includes limiting the amount of contact teachers can have online with students.

    >> it identifies only one narrow area that we prohibit and that is hidden communication where parents, third parties, school personnel, can not monitor it.

    >> reporter: for her part, alecia believes the new legislation in missouri is the right idea.

    >> it takes away one medium that these predators have to get their victims to speak privately with them and gain that confidence.

    >> we reached out to the american federation of teachers to get their response to new legislation and the officials there declined to comment.

    >>> ann is the editor in chief of "seventeen" magazine. interesting topic, haven't given it a lot of thought until hearing this story. we heard one state has moved to restrict these kinds of online communications between students and teachers. the fact is a lot of other places, a lot of other schools almost encourage this kind of networking as a benefit to both parties. can you put the toothpaste back in the tube here?

    >> the short answer is no. 59% of all our readers say they're facebook friends with their teachers. and you have to ask yourself why. 95%, 99% of the time it's completely legitimate reasons. they want homework help . it's easy to get a question answered. it's sort of interesting to see that your teacher is a person. it's like when you run into them in the grocery store, oh, my gosh, they have a life.

    >> it would have freaked me out.

    >> it's the same thing with the facebook , you can see that the teacher had gone to the movies, a family picnic.

    >> what stories are you hearing from your readers?

    >> that's where it turns interesting. girls don't understand where the boundaries are when they're teenagers. they are still learning about how all of this works together. to have your teacher in the same context as your friend gets very murky. the friending can turn into flirting and worse.

    >> caroline, how do you communicate to the kids and what else does this open up?

    >> yeah, i think that -- i mean, that is a really terrible story. a lot of creepy stuff going on out there. but i really think for the most part a lot of the teachers using social media in the classroom are using it as a teaching tool, to help their kids -- help their students learn, you know, the 21st century skills that are going to make them competitive in a digital world . i think that that's really for the most part that's what teachers are saying this story was framed with the idea of a sexual predator . when you have this kind of communication going on, perhaps for good purpose, is there a fear that what started out with good intentions can cross the line that no one intended it to?

    >> i think they need to talk to their kids about cautions that you talk to your kids about in the real world can happen online. if a teacher says let's have a private conversation or someone says let's, you know, not tell anyone about this conversation, there's a red flag .

    >> the school is going to have to revisit this question now and like missouri , to begin to restrict some of these communications?

    >> the most important thing is to make sure that everybody is well educated about what is appropriate and what is not appropriate. it starts with the teen aagers because you can't monitor every single communication that your child is having online. but you need to help them understand where those lines are. we say that is there inappropriate touching? does your teacher want you to delete messages? does she try to get you alone? all of those things are major red flags . it needs to start with the teenager because you can't be there with them all the time.

    >> we've got the end the conversation but you have started an important conversation. we hope it will be pursued on a lot of levels. thank

Vote: Should teachers be Facebook friends with students?

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