New technological tools are providing educators with direct access to students–often unmonitored–24 hours a day. That, coupled with the casual tone of text or online conversations, can help blur the lines of appropriateness between a student and teacher, say law enforcement officials and social media experts.
As a result, they say they’ve noticed an increase in reports of cases where teachers are using text messaging, Facebook, and other networks as icebreakers to groom students for sexual relationships.
“We didn’t have cell phones, we didn’t have computers, but we also weren’t calling our teachers at home on their personal phones,” said Terri Miller, president of Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation (S.E.S.A.M.E.) (http://www.sesamenet.org/), a Las Vegas-based victim and survivor support network. “I don’t think there’s any reason for teachers to be communicating with students outside of school. It just sets up a whole new boundary that can be crossed. Their relationship with the student is teacher-student, it’s not friend.”
Others suggest, however, that there has not necessarily been an increase of cases involving teachers and students but that the electronic flirting makes it much easier for teachers to get caught.
“I don’t think the technology is at fault, but the technology is making bad behavior a lot easier to accomplish,” said Samra Bufkins, a senior lecturer in strategic communication at the University of North Texas in Denton.