(James: mid-30s American):
First and foremost, I’m glad that I grew up in a much simpler time in which such issue didn’t really exist. Since I’m in my mid-30s and only had access to email from my freshman year in college, I was already technically an adult and fairly capable of exercising good judgment in using it. Although digital communications like email and instant messaging apps have made our lives more convenient by making ubiquitous communication possible on one hand, it has also raised many questions on how we should responsibly utilize them and if children are mature enough to use them.
I personally have been removed from school for a long time and don’t have any children of my own, so I honestly have no idea on the kinds of protocols the schools in the U.S. have regarding this issue. I’m sure that each school has set its own protocol in place in the past few years, but I’m not aware of any. I do think such digital communications like email and instant messaging are useful and sometimes even necessary for teachers and students to exchange information outside school. So, instead of putting a complete ban on them, I think that all parties such as the teachers, school officials, students and their parents should discuss and figure out how to effectively implement and utilize the technology while being wary of its pitfalls.
Regarding emails, I think that this is already the case for most schools in the U.S. but teachers should only be able to communicate with their students through a school-designated email address that is frequently monitored by school officials. Also, it should only be used by the teachers to make announcements or send reminders like sudden school closure notices and project deadline reminders to the whole class. In no case do I think that a teacher should be able to contact a single student via email concerning anything. For the students, I think that they should be able to email the teachers directly without cc’ing anyone else to notify certain time sensitive matters like how they may not be able to turn a specific homework on time due to some valid reason.
My position on instant messaging apps would be exactly the same as for email. However, I don’t think that there’s much need for schools to set up a school-designated instant messaging account as there are less students who have access to these compared to email. Having it may actually cause more trouble as some students without smartphones and access to these apps may find themselves out of the loop and feel left out. If the school does in fact have such account, it should only be used for relaying time sensitive information and emergency notices to those who have opted to be in a group chat with the school account.
Looking back at my college days, I realize how useful and integral email was in contacting and communicating with my professors outside of class. Since that time, the functions and accessibility of the email have vastly improved, and the increased prevalence of instant messaging apps in the past few years have changed how people communicate with each other. I think that it has made communication more convenient and ubiquitous, but maybe too close for comfort that it has become even invading in some sense. Just as how teachers and students shouldn’t cross their relationship in the physical classroom, they shouldn’t do so even in their digital communications. Furthermore, to safeguard both teachers and students from crossing that line, the school officials and parents should devise and enforce plausible and sensible policies that don’t completely ban such communications between teachers and students.