Grade Expectations: Teachers Are Using Social Media To Appease Helicopter Parents

social mediaGrade Expectations is a weekly look at education from a parent’s perspective. We’ll talk special needs, gifted & talented, and everything in between. 

Have you liked your child’s school on Facebook yet? Does your teacher have a Twitter account for 140 character updates throughout the day? Is your Instagram feed filled with shots of every kid in your child’s class performing various school activities?

Welcome to the world of social media in the classroom.

In schools across the country, teachers are keeping parents informed of class activities not just with weekly newsletters, but with constant social media action. My friend is following her 1st grader’s class on Twitter, getting pictures and notices of what the kids are doing throughout the day. Actually, even my friend’s mother follows the account, so grandparents can get in n the action too. I happen to be connected with my daughter’s school on a Facebook page that’s maintained by the PTA and lets parents know about after-school activities, schedules, and events. I also get a daily newsletter with pictures and descriptions of their projects, the books they’re reading, and their current work correlates with state grade level requirements.

I think that this trend is a bit of a double-edged sword. As I’ve mentioned before, I think being involved in your child’s school is extremely important. I volunteer once a week in my daughter’s classroom. And in fact, the philosophy that my little girl’s school employs, Reggio Emilia, calls for lots of parent-teacher coordination. I think it benefits kids to have their parents talking to them about school, active in the school community, and working with their teacher.

So why would I ever complain about connecting to the school on social media? Well, I guess it feels like a false connection to me. Having short updates about, “Having watermelon for snack today! It’s messy, but the kids love it,” or “Using Kandinsky’s Cirles as inspiration in art class today. Be sure to check backpacks tonight,” it gives the parent a feeling of involvement without requiring any work from them. It makes the parent feel connected, but it doesn’t let the child know that their parent cares or is paying attention.

I’d like to point out that the Twitter and Facebook accounts are private, so not just any random person could follow your child’s class online. I think teachers and the school systems they work for are conscientious enough to ensure that they’re protecting our kids online safety. No sharing a child’s name attached with their picture. Only letting approved accounts follow or friend the class. And I’m sure that if a parent protested, teachers would be careful not to share pictures of a specific student.

I think the information you gain from being in contact with your child’s teacher can be important. If you’re using that tweet to sit down with your child and have a long discussion about Kandinsky, what your child learned and what other artists they might want to study, then obviously it did it’s job. It brought the parent and student closer, talking about their education.

I just worry that having all of that information might lull parents into a sense of complacency. I think getting constant updates about your child’s day can make you feel like you’re involved, even though your child has no idea that you’re watching or that you care. If those tweets don’t encourage you to talk to your child about school when they get home, then it’s not “being involved,” it’s just extreme Helicoptering with a modern twist.


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