A coach requiring a team member’s Facebook password is a serious problem all by itself. But this coach used that password to read private messages and then kick the team member off the squad for profanity Coach Tommie Hill found in the private message. I’m referring to a case in Pearl, Miss., cited in eSchoolNews. The student was nominated for a team spirit award “for the previous year, but the coaches said she did not deserve the honor. [She] also did not take certain academic courses because the cheerleading coaches taught them.” The student and her family are now suing the coach and school for $100 million “for what the suit claims are violations of Jackson’s right to privacy and freedom of speech.”
What’s wrong with this picture on the privacy front? Viewing students’ public profiles is fine simply because they’re public. But in terms of protecting one’s identity, privacy, and intellectual property, sharing passwords is one of the most risky behaviors in the online risk spectrum (see ConnectSafely’s password tips). I’m stating the obvious in saying that teachers, coaches, and other adult mentors should be modeling safe, ethical behavior, not the opposite. What Coach Hill’s behavior teaches students to do is set up a network of “G-rated” profiles and give her those passwords to avoid any repercussions from the “real” profiles – or set up “real life” profiles in another social network site. If not these, then there are other workarounds. CNN Live covered a similar story involving a private school in Georgia, interviewing a few of us bloggers about it. For more on how adults, for their own sake too, could model better behavior in social media, see this at Forbes.