Facebook (FB) currently boasts over 1 billion active monthly users. Forty-eight percent of 18-43 year olds access FB when they wake up; furthermore, since the end of 2012, the number of FB users ages 45-54 increased 45%. It is no surprise, then, that FB use between students and dental educators now intersect. The effect of FB on relationships between faculty and current undergraduate students has been largely unexplored. The purpose of this study was to identify attitudes and experiences of dental hygiene faculty regarding interactions with current undergraduate dental hygiene students on FB.
An online survey instrument was designed through SurveyMonkey(R) and received Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry IRB approval. After pilot testing, a personal survey link was emailed to 232 dental hygiene faculty members at 33 dental hygiene programs in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
A total of 95 dental hygiene faculty members participated, resulting in a 41% response rate. Of the 84.2% (n = 80) of faculty members who indicated they had a FB account, only 12.5% (n = 10) responded they were friends with students on FB. Just over 69% of respondents (n = 65) felt it was inappropriate for faculty and students to interact on FB. Many felt the line between faculty and students was blurred because of FB interaction (68.1%, n = 64). Over half (54.3%, n = 51) agreed that faculty should use a separate FB page to interact with students. Just over 79% (n = 74) of faculty desired institutional guidelines advising about interactions on FB. Open-ended comments revealed four dominant themes: 1) FB relationships with students were appropriate only after graduation, 2) there was a blurring of lines when faculty were "friends" with undergraduate students on FB, 3) institutional guidelines were desired by faculty, and 4) concern over content on students' FB pages.
Online relationships between the two groups remained a gray area as faculty wrestled with implications of interactions with current students on FB. Furthermore, few dental hygiene faculty used FB to interact with students or as a platform for academic use. Finally, faculty desired institutional support by providing best practice guidelines, assisting them in navigating the ambiguity of social networking relationships.
- Mallonee, Lisa Professor