Should you “friend” your mentee on Facebook?

Learn more about navigating social networks while mentoring.

Technology gives us the power to connect like never before. Social networks, texting, video chats, instant messages and blogs allow us to reach out to friends, family, acquaintances and people with similar interests. The array of communication methods brings challenges as well. One issue of particular interest to mentors is whether it is appropriate to “friend” a mentee on Facebook.

To answer this question, you should first look at how you use social networks and answer these questions:

  • What sort of information and content do you share?
  • How secure are your privacy settings?
  • What sort of things do others post on your timeline?

Adults often recognize that young people use social networks and they want to connect with them through these networks to have easy access to send the young person messages. While it is great to be able to share the information with young people, you need to consider the information that you are unintentionally sharing as well.

Take a look at your Timeline. If you see anything that you wouldn’t share with your mentee in person, you should not be Facebook friends unless you plan to utilize privacy settings to limit what your mentee can see. Examine your pictures and see if anything could be seen as inappropriate if taken out of context. Do you have posts that are political or religious in nature? Programs often have policies limiting discussion on these topics. Posts and pictures that depict alcohol consumption, smoking or other behaviors that are not allowed while volunteering are also not appropriate to share with your mentee. Look at the things your friends and family post on your Timeline. Is the content appropriate for your mentee to see? Finally, you should also consider the implications of having access to your mentees Facebook. Check into program policies to see if there are behaviors/topics of conversation that you must report.

If you decide not to “friend” your mentee, there are still other options. You can create a group on Facebook for communication and invite as many or as few people as you want. Groups can be set to private and group members do not need to be Facebook friends.

Social networking and mentoring can be confusing. Ask your case manager or match specialist to assist you in making these decision. For more information related to mentoring and social media refer to Mentor Michigan.

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