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I Don’t Want to Tweet With Teachers

Photograph by Getty Images

When the kids go back to school the parents go back to signing folders full of papers. Only in the past couple of years, it hasn't been just the usual permissions slips and health forms. I was speed signing a stack of papers for my middle schooler, when I came across a form asking me to sign up for text updates about my son's homework. There was a box to check for each parent and a box for the student.

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"Do you want to get text updates about your assignments?" I asked.

"No," said my seventh grader. "I don't need that."

"What do you mean you don't need text updates?" I demanded, as I checked off the box and scrawled my email address.

It's hard enough to know what's going on once the kids hit middle school. So of course, if there are updates available, I want to get them. But the problem is that this is just for one of my son's language class, one of six periods he goes to every day. And the science teacher asked us to download an app that reminds us of upcoming due dates. All this is on top of the website the school district maintains so parents can keep tabs on everything from whether the kid is tardy for class to his grade on his latest algebra quiz.

Both the elementary school and the middle school use Twitter to broadcast updates, which must seem like a convenient — and free!— way to disseminate information to a lot of people, if only 140 characters at a time. I love Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, just about every social media platform. But to be honest, I don't really want to tweet with my children's teachers or principals.

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1. Most Gen X parents I know are not on Twitter — unless, like me, they work in social media or need to use it to promote their work. And people who are active on the Internets usually follow thousands of Twitter accounts, so the chances of actually catching a tweet from school in the midst of all the online noise is pretty slim. Also, I don't necessarily want my kids' school reading my tweets. Next thing you know, they'll find out I'm a blogger and start reading my manifestos against schools using social media willy-nilly.

2. Most parents are on Facebook. Why do you think teens are abandoning the platform in droves? When our elementary school started using Twitter, I had a chat with the principal about my concerns about social media best practices, and suggested that a Facebook group might be a better platform, as almost every parent I know is already there, posting vacation pictures and personality quizzes. "I'm concerned about all the privacy issues on Facebook," the principal explained. Well, since we're on the subject…

3. Everything on Twitter is public. If you're concerned about privacy on Facebook, then you should know that everything on Twitter is public (unless you have a private account, which sort of defeats the purpose of using Twitter as a means to broadcast information) and archived on the Library of Congress. So, you need to treat your tweets as public notices, as in … don't tweet anything you wouldn't say in a public meeting or if a TV microphone was thrust in your face. Same goes for Facebook posts, even if they are marked "private."

4. Don't have platform overload. Want to communicate with parents? There's an app for that! Just because there's an app doesn't mean you should use it. I use one forum for PTA updates, a website for the school district, another site to check my kids' school lunch payments, a Yahoo group for the booster club and Google Docs up the wazoo. I'm sure I'm forgetting something, including the passwords to all these accounts.

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5. If you want to find the students, go to Instagram. Or Snapchat. That's where all the middle-schoolers are, sharing photos of their pets and nail polish art. If teachers started tweeting selfies with #homework, think of all the likes they would get! Or they might just drive the kids to yet another app.

Do you think schools are using social media the right way?

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