I was very skeptical about the social networking thing about a year ago. My son had a My Space account. My husband had a Facebook account. I was not sure if I wanted people to find me. I wasn't sure what might be shared. Of course, you can hide, block, do all the privacy settings, and monitor it. Then there was a site from FB my husband opened and it gave his computer a virus - but that can happen anywhere on the web I guess.
So, about a year ago I finally gave in and set up a facebook account. I quickly added school teacher friends, principals, old high school friends, and family. It was very cool at first and I was checking it daily. I never got "addicted" and certainly didn't like any of the games. I actually got a little annoyed at the invites to play these games and the comments about them. That seems to have tapered off now. I don't check FB everyday anymore. I hardly ever check it to be honest just due to time (and not having my OWN computer right now). But, it is a nice tool to keep in touch and stay in the loop of friends that I wouldn't normally talk to or chat with everyday, but this way I can sort of know how they are and what's going on in their lives.
It's also great for getting answers pretty quick. I asked a teacher friend one time if she still needed my fair ticket and that was cool to get through on FB since I didn't have her phone number. Then, I asked all my "friends" on FB if they knew a good A/C company and it's good to get the advice and referral of a trusted person.
Here is the link to my Facebook. Come visit and if we're not friends, request. :)
It seems to be a very important thing for teachers (and parents) to know about the social networking because the kids are absolutely hooking up through it and sending pictures (not always good ones) and sharing homework (and answers). If it's not monitored, it can get out of hand. But, it can be used as a good thing too. I love my oldest son's profile and the description of himself. Then, there's my youngest who is not supposed to be able to have a my space until he's 13 and he tried lying and getting an account when he was 10 and said he was 14. Silly boy. I have deleted two of the accounts he snuck by me. He has a facebook account now too that I'm letting him keep. He turns 13 in August. I will monitor it regularly.
There are so many GROUPS you can join and keep up with special deals or happenings. For example, my high school I graduated from has a site and keeps me posted of people who have passed away or reunions coming up.
One thing I do not like about the social networking is the pictures people post (often time nude or nearly nude). I don't want my kids (or students) having access to that. It makes my job as a parent much more tedious to keep up with. You trust them to a point, but they are boys!!! And these girls sometimes don't have a clue what they are doing posting those pix!!!
I prefer Facebook as opposed to My Space - basically because more of my school friends and teachers are on that network. I haven't tried any others- like the LinkIn.com that was mentioned on the Common Craft Show.
I can see how the social networking would be useful and helpful to students to a degree. I wonder, though, how distracted they become or consumed with it they could be instead of doing other productive things. But they could have homework buddies or ask teachers questions or at the very least, get practice spelling, typing, putting thoughts into words on the comments. It does have positive qualities.
I'm sure we will see more positive changes on these social networks as time passes and technology increases. It will be interesting.
So - remember - find me on facebook my 23 Thingster friends. :)