On FB I find it easy to avoid my students. I view FB as an extension of my home life. I am politically verbal and because it is selfishly my space, if I don't like what someone writes, I don't hesitate to 'hide' or 'unfriend' that person. If I ever run into someone I've unfriended, I don't have a problem explaining that my FB is for close friends and family. In fact, I recently cut more than 500 people from FB, going from 1,000+ 'friends' down to 430 real friends. Also, my middle school students don't really use FB, so only rarely do I get a friend request (and have little problem refusing it).
Instagram has been more tricky though. During the last few weeks of the school year, a few students 'found' me on Instagram, probably because my user name was simply my name: JaneGould, which I believe is pretty common on Instagram. One sent me a request and before long, I'd had 20+ requests. I did what I thought was right and what I do with my students who are 12-14 years old, and had a conversation with them about it. I explained that if I friend them and see anything I 'shouldn't', that by law I have to report them - they didn't care. I also told them that I'd started a school Instagram that I'd love them to be on, but, not one of them thought that was cool or wanted to bother, explaining to me that another teacher had done that and it was lame.
So, after giving it some thought and knowing that I'm a responsible 42-year-old professional, mother-of-two and good citizen, decided to allow them to friend me. That was all fine for about a week until I posted a picture of some new tattoos I'd got and they all commented about how great they were. It made me feel weird and a little sick. That they were showing me how great they thought I was out of the school grounds somehow didn't feel right to me. A line had been crossed. The thing was that it wasn't anything personal or secret - they'd see the tattoos when we got to school next year - they're on my arms. It was just the timing and the fact that we were out of school.
Without wanting to upset any of them or having to give a big explanation which I couldn't in person due to being off school, I decided to delete my account completely. Is that a big deal? Not really, I only posted on there about once every few months. I did look at it every three or four days, but that's a distraction I'm sure I can live without! For me it's more about being conscious of the fact that we are in a huge transition and that generationally the differences of what is normal are getting so much bigger than ever before due to our students growing up with social media.
Ultimately as well, it's about me finding what I'm comfortable with. It was a big one for me and I hope my discoveries help someone else. Middle schoolers are just that - in the middle. Some are very mature and more like high schoolers, others are very young like 5th graders. What I've found out for me is to stick with my original gut feeling. No Instagram at all for me with my middle schoolers. Period.