September 25, 2009 by readlisaread
Colleague of mine came in the other day very concerned about a FaceBook issue. We work in a grade 7,8,9 Middle School, and the day prior one of his grade 8’s came flying up to say how excited he was about being friended on my buddy’s FaceBook. My friend had to explain to the student that he hadn’t friended him, and in fact he didn’t have a FaceBook account. The kid insisted it WAS him, and that other kids from the school were friended as well, and that it had the teacher’s picture on it.
Now, this all alarmed my co-worker (and me) for a few reasons–it seemed someone had assumed his identity (alarming), that they were adding our students to the page (double alarming) and because the account was set to Private, we couldn’t peek in and see what messages were being sent from the Fake teacher (BIG alarming). On top of which, we had been told by our professional association that it was not appropriate for us to FaceBook-Friend our students.
There wasn’t much recourse. I couldn’t check into the page at school (because, of course, it’s blocked and the IT department has spent all summer cranking up the filters so I couldn’t even find a proxy or https workaround–and yes, I made sure to get in a comment about yet another lost opportunity to actually teach the kids something meaningful…but as always that falls on deaf ears.)
When I got home that night, I found the page and sent a Friend request (which, if the kid who assumed the teacher’s identity is as smart as I think s/he is, they will be smart enough to not friend the IT teacher….hard to say). Because the page was set to not allow the non-friended to view the page, I couldn’t see what discussion was happening. I could view the (then) 38 friends, all of whom are our students. I also reported the page to FaceBook, explaining what the situation was, and the potential for Bad Outcomes, given that minors are involved. I can’t imagine FaceBook acting too quickly, if at all.
The Prince contacted the RCMP and the head of our district’s IT Department. The RCMP were concerned, but honest in that they really wouldn’t be able to invest time in this sort of a situation. No other action has taken place yet. My recommendation to the Prince was to call all the “friends” of the Fake Teacher together and grill them until someone cracked–because I am certain that one of the Friends is also the inventor of the account, and friended themselves as the teacher, in order to set up what would appear to be a communication.
I’m worried for my friend, but given that he is a popular teacher and a nice guy, I think this is more mischief than malice, but it sure highlights a “What Could Potentially Happen” scenario. Scary. And a reflection of how comfortable our kids are in this medium….and how uncomfortable lots of us still are….