A school principal in New Jersey recently sent a letter to parents asking them to completely remove their children from any social networking sites and to keep close tabs on their text messaging habits. Anthony Orsini, the principal of Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood, sent a long email to parents indicating that kids should be “not allowed to be a member of any social networking site.” Is the principal overstepping the line?
Orsini’s main concern about social networking is that it causes psychological damage to students who are being cyber-bullied. While rumors were once a thing that would cause problems for students in a small group, social networks ensure that harmful bullying is spread across the entire student base like wildfire. The school’s guidance counsellor brought this to the attention of the principal, noting that 75% of her day is spent on social networking issues.
Like any connected technology, social networking is a double-edged sword, and cyber-bullying is appearing to become more and more of an issue. The fact that children can now spread rumors, exaggerated photos and more with great secrecy and ease means that malicious children can coordinate pretty harsh pranks on more susceptible students. I’ve always felt that the web does even the odds a bit, as a bullied student should be able to either retaliate with rumors of their own, or easily prove the dirty deeds by saving a screenshot, or just find a different social network, but is that really a solution? The solution really lies in respect of others, and this is something that goes beyond social networks and lies with the children and their parents. The principal’s decision to ask students to completely disconnect from social networking, while admirable, is probably not going to be effective, but teacher-parent awareness about the perils of social networking is a good start.
Below is a copy of Orsini’s entire e-mail:
Dear BF Community,
In 2002 when I arrived in Ridgewood Facebook did not exist, Youtube did not exist, and MySpace was barely in existence. Formspring (one of the newest internet scourges, a site meant simply to post cruel things about people anonymously) wasn’t even in someone’s mind.
In 2010 social networking sites have now become commonplace, and technology use by students is beyond prevalent.
It is time for every single member of the BF 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.
5 of the last 8 parents who we have informed that their child was posting inappropriate things on Facebook said their child did not have an account. Every single one of the students had an account.
3 Students yesterday told a guidance counselor that their parents told them to close their accounts when the parents learned they had an account. All three students told their parents it was closed. All three students still had an account after telling their parents it was closed.
Most students are part of more than one social networking site.
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.