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"Get Off Facebook": Middle School Principal Takes On Cyberbullying

CJ Westerberg, June 29, 2010 12:31 PM

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Update: NYT link HERE - 6/28/10

Are Tweens Developmentally Too Young For Facebook & Texting?

Watch: ABC "Good Morning America"
With George Stephanopoulos Below
(click on pause if video plays ahead of click)


This story is making the rounds and has real implications about the social networking habits of our younger students as it relates to school leadership, parental monitoring and educational impact.   A middle school principal at a Ridgewood N.J. school, Anthony Orsini, sent an email requesting parents to take the initiative and control of their middle-schooler's on-line social behavior.  No longer is it enough to educate students on acceptable social behavior vs. cyberbullying.

Orsini told George Stephanopoulos on GMA that he has to deal with cyberbullying "every day" on his job.  The following are excerpts of the email and link for it in its entirety, see  CBSTVC.com

"Please do the following: sit down with your child (and they are just children still) and tell them that they are not allowed to be a member of any social networking site. Today!

"Let them know that you will at some point every week be checking their text messages online! You have the ability to do this through your cell phone provider.

"Let them know that you will be installing Parental Control Software so you can tell every place they have visited online, and everything they have instant messaged or written to a friend. Don't install it behind their back, but install it!"

"It is time for every single member of the BF (Benjamin Franklin School - ed note) Community to take a stand! There is absolutely no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site!

"Let me repeat that - there is absolutely, positively no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site! None."

Orsini sat down with ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "Good Morning America" with the rationale and feedback that parents are on board - see video below.  Via CNET's Technically Incorrect.  Orsini explained that since social networking is getting younger and meaner where children at this age are just simply not emotionally-ready to handle the tough critiques being sent around, such as a "Dave is ugly" group, it was time take more definitive action steps.

He suggest parents remove computers and electronics out of the bedroom especially at night
(the school has seen e-mails come in at 2:30 in the morning from tweens).  While stressing that only a small minority of the kids are responsible for the damaging messaging, it takes only one time to inflict "pain" on another and that it they may "never be able to get it back" (before a child gets over the hurt).  Stephanopoulos seemed highly skeptical whether parents could "stop" this behavior which is another aspect of the question whether "Should you monitor?" or not.  The
other relevat questions are "Is it possible?" and "Is it effective?"
 
For related story on The Daily Riff, see here, "Being Parented to Be Sexualized & Snippy?"  and here, "Is the New Facebook A Deal With the Devil?".

Watch video below and decide for yourself:

Is middle school too young for Facebook?
Heavy-handed monitoring or smart parenting?

  • Anonymous

    While I AGREE kids Internet usage SHOULD be REGULATED. For the PRINCIPAL to DICTATE what the parents WILL & WON'T Allow is asinine!

  • Aeth

    I WHOLEHEARTEDLY DISAGREE:

    I think the principal is taking the wrong approach in this case. Kids will be mean to other kids. If you kick them off Facebook, they will go right back to calling each other ugly in bathroom graffiti and classroom note-passing.

    If the argument is "Middle-schoolers are using Facebook to bully other students, and therefore no middle-schoolers should be allowed on Facebook", then one is making the mistake of blaming the tool rather than the behavior. Instead, I would encourage this principal and the parents to identify the guilty students and take appropriate counseling and social development steps.

    Children rebel against authoritarian gestures such as those advocated by this principal. It will only cause the problem students to become more subversive and covert in their behavior and the targeted students will be blamed for the new prohibition. Kids aren't stupid; do you really think Billy the Cyberbully won't just go over to his friend's house and say mean things about Dave the Dweeb there?

    I also find the idea that there is "absolutely no reason" for a middle-school student to be part of a social networking site to be shortsighted and narrow-minded. There are many good reasons why young children might use Facebook. It gives them the opportunity to meet and interact with people who share similar interests, just like adults. It gives them a robust media-rich way to interact with their peers, just like adults. When I was in school, many of my friends moved away because they were military dependents. A site like Facebook would have enabled me to maintain contact with them. Facebook could enable children to learn about cultures and communities other than their own.

    With proper oversight by parents and other authority figures, social networking sites can hold just as many possibilities for kids as they do for everyone else. And in this day and age, if you are going to forbid your children from a social networking site, you may as well prohibit e-mails, instant messages, text messages, phone calls, and written letters.

  • Dylan Stoewer

    I think that its not right when your teachers look at your facebook pages and your wall. Because its your time away from school.

  • I agree with the principal that middle school students shouldn't be on facebook. They are to young to be on that website and that is exactly why facebook has the blocker for people under 13. Yes facebook is an amazing website that lets you connect to friends but students do not need to be on there at two in the morning or all day.

  • T.J. Staver

    I do not think middle schoolers under the age of 13 should be able to have a facebook account. At age 13 most are responsible to have a facebook account, with parents permission.

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