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Should you “friend” the teenagers you volunteer with?

Facebook and volunteering

92 Friend Requests. That’s what awaited one HOY volunteer after a day at a local middle school. Over 100 notifications the next morning. “Likes” on every picture. A common debate on school campuses, Facebook relationships and privacy are now important topics in volunteering as well.

Volunteering, especially in another country, is an experience that every Facebook user wants to document – with updates, pictures, comments and of course, new friends. When you make a connection with a person, your automatic reaction is “Facebook me.” You want to be able to write that person, follow their lives, look through all their pictures, and so on.

Some volunteers think that it gives them a better connection with the people they are working with. You’re not a teacher or a parent; maybe you want to be considered a friend or a big brother/sister. You can keep in touch with someone so they can keep practicing their English or continue working on a project together. It is a chance to look at pictures after your volunteer experience and to keep in contact with a few people you feel you’ve had an impact on.

But when you’re volunteering with children or adolescents, sometimes those relationships can be a bit blurred. Teenagers love to stalk and “like” each and every one of your pictures and add comments. They might use the information they learn about you to ask awkward personal questions during your volunteer experience. Plus Photoshop can do miracles with any pictures they have access to. And it’s highly likely that, as an adult, you have more “adult” content on your Facebook, even if it’s just you in a bathing suit or having drinks with friends.

So what should you do? Do you tell them you don’t have Facebook? Do you put them on a restricted setting? You might want to ask the volunteer organization you’re working with what they suggest. Sometimes organizations have rules – you can’t post pictures with minors, especially if you’re working with at-risk children or in foster-parent/half-way house situations.

Some ideas:
Don’t add people until after your volunteer experience.
Add people under a restricted profile.
Say you don’t add minors, and be firm about it.
Have an alternate profile, used for non-“social life” experiences.

What are your feelings/suggestions? Have you had a positive or negative experience with using Facebook and a volunteering? How can volunteers tiptoe through this grey area? In the meantime, add Casa HOY to your Facebook profile! We promise to only write on your wall when we’re bored. *Poke*

Posted by UnMejorHOY 16:54 Archived in Mexico Tagged parties travel mexico de reyes international traditions community cultural volunteer casa voluntourism casa_hoy participatory rosca

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